Rumbles 8 miles high - home
του Phil McMullen

Terrascopic Rumbles No.3 (Mάρτιος 2012)

Tα "Terrascopic Rumbles" αναδημοσιεύονται από το To κείμενο που ακολουθεί έγραψε ο Steve Palmer και επιμελήθηκε ο Phil McMullen.

Layers of the Onion - Hal-An-TowLayers of the Onion comprises Martin Powell on various instruments and Fredrik Ness Sevendal on various instruments - Western, ethnic, synth and effects for the pair - who on their new album Hal-An-Tow make a gorgeous floaty kind of music, drifting in fine style from acoustic dreams to drum-related psych folkery. The opening track, “When Acorns Reach The Sea”, takes the listener straight to the Floyd of the very late sixties, as dreamy acoustic guitars and sea sounds, overlaid with subtle glockenspiel, create a haunting atmosphere. “In The Land Of Sona-Nyl” brings in special guest Aaron Moore on drums, creating a fourteen minute mini-epic of slowly increasing tension - instruments brought in, strange effects added, cymbals tapped. As the piece wends its way through this avant-jazz landscape the drums become more complex, and a simple chord progression emerges. Great stuff. The third track is a real epic, twenty five minutes, and yet it's all ambient, rhythmless and formless, opening with doomy chords and sounds as if channelled from 1970, slowly changing into other, more mysterious sounds... I liked it a lot. This album has its own character, its own agenda and its own space.

Andrew Cronshaw - The Unbroken Surface of SnowThe Unbroken Surface of Snow by Andrew Cronshaw is a collection of five tracks matching various ethnic instruments with one another. Cronshaw is a well known figure in what might loosely be called world music, and his approach is global, though there is a strong Finnish element to this album owing to the presence of vocalist Sanna Kurki-Suonio. Opener “Käärme” floats duduk (beautifully played by Tigran Aleksanyan), whistle and a reed-pipe over a low drone. The effect is spacious, crystalline and gorgeous. “Fujaruk” is a brief track based around the fujara (a large overtone flute, also played by Dartmoor musician Nigel Shaw) and Aleksanyan's duduk. The thirty five minute title track occupies the centre of the album, and in a way is its raison d'etre, as zither, duduk and Kurki-Suonio's vocals interplay, alongside the soprano saxophone of Ian Blake. The overall effect, played in a silent room on a quiet winter's day, is quite ravishing, even when a slow rhythm and the vocals appear, knocking the mood into another zone. “Mhairi Mhin Mheall-Shuileach” is a zither-based adaption of a traditional Scots air, magnificently played on Cronshaw's unique 74-string electric zither, while “Im Hogutz” returns to the slow, icy sound world of reverberated duduk, drone and reed instruments, including the Chinese ba-wu. A stunning album, highly recommended.

In the Labyrinth - One Trail to HeavenI've been a fan of In the Labyrinth (a/k/a Swedish multi-instrumentalist Peter Lindahl) for some years now, and was very happy to receive his new album One Trail to Heaven, a compilation of cuts from 1993 to 2004, for review. Lindahl's music takes ethnic instruments and moods but blends them with modern synthesizers, usually to quiet, melodic effect... but not always. “Lost In The Woods”, the opening track on this album, begins with a huge gothic introduction before wending its way into an acoustic guitar and piano based reverie. “Escape from Canaan” brings in deraboukah and a mysterious voice-like synth sound, “Moorish Rhapsody” roughens things up with electric guitar, “The Garden Of Mysteries II” is a brief interlude of birdsong, saz and ethnic percussion, while “Monsoon” matches a piano with light instrumentation. “Karakoram Waltz” is a particularly lovely track where all the instruments meld perfectly, in a style not unlike that of Cornish musician Tim Wheater. “Muscarin Madness” is a little bit of quirky glockenspiel/zither, “Deep Saffron” adds strange ethnic voices to a spooky track, while “Night Of The Baskerville Killer”, from the excellent album Dryad, has a terrific vocal - Lindahl should do more of this. “The Endless City” and “Cloudburst” are both unreleased tracks, both excellent. The only fly in the ointment is a rather vapid version of Justin Hayward's “Cities”. For those not yet aware of this highly talented musician, this album, covering so much of the man's work, is a superb introduction.

The Orbweavers - LoomThe Orbweavers hail from Melbourne in Australia, and their new album Loom is an eleven track collection of new songs, opening with the delightful “Merri”, which takes a lovely tune and vocal to some subtle instrumentation. “Double Thread” is a kind of low-key, almost sinister folk tune, while “Horseshoe Lake” slows things down even more; all the lyrics for these songs come from local stories, none more so than this bitter "phosphate and DDT" lament. “Confessions” has less reverb and thus more intimacy, while “You Can Run (Fern's Theme)” celebrates walking the dog - in this case Marita Dyson and Stuart Flanagan's rescued greyhound. “Japanese Mountains” was inspired by the band's 2010 tour, as was the flip side of the album's single, “Spotswood”, whose heavily reverberated vocal is particularly lovely, Dyson's voice having an almost childlike quality. “One By One” brings Flanagan's voice in once more, while the title track is a hushed, reverential piece evoking the subliminal scents of erotic attraction, and the moon... spookily lovely. The closing track, “Rise Above”, matches both the lead vocals, and manages to summarise the album, adding soft percussion and subtle backing vocals to the mix. Terrific! This really is a beautiful album - highly recommended.

Dark Ocean Colors - s/tRainbow Quartz Records do great work with retro music, and here's another nice concoction of harmony vocals and sixties vibes, Dark Ocean Colours by Dark Ocean Colours. Opening with pretty much the weakest song on the album, things pick up with the fab “Crashing the Sky” and the groovy “The Other Line”, both of which evoke all things sixties. “Love You Much Better” is a quirky shuffler which descends into Cream-lite, but “Own The Day” is a cracker of a song and undoubtedly an album highlight. “Lazy Lighthouse Jupiter Band” evokes the summery nostalgia of youth in a kind of ELO-haunted manner, while “Alone with Candy” has a Beatlesesque arrangement and almost a Beatlesesque tune. Not quite, though. “Same Old Mistake” is similar (ironically), while the lazily drifting “She's A Cornucopia” is nice, and album closer “Dream Away” is a waltztime torch song accompanied by piano and acoustic guitar; Beach Boys harmonies elevate it to excellence. This isn't the best album Rainbow Quartz have released so far, but it is good, and definitely one for fans of Deleted Waveform Gatherings, Fan Modine, Pugwash et al.

Spherulus - VoyageSpherulus is the nom de plume of Lincolnshire based sound designer Harry Towell, whose new album Voyage is an evocative journey through, well, sound design. This is a concept album, depicting the launch, voyage, sinking and decomposition of a ship, a theme researched for a while before the album (which is based on earlier demo material) was born. “All For Sea” is a haunting piece of minimal drone ambience, taking the mood of the album then spinning it into subsequent tracks, augmented here and there by sounds, elsewhere by electronic effects. The whole is atmospheric, and makes for good evening listening. “Losing Transmission” is a particularly nice track, with hints of flute mellotron in the mix, above and behind a ghostly, hissing sustained chord. The eighteen minute closing track, “Afterlife of a Ship”, adds a curious but very effective guitar, minimally played, to the soundworld. Evocative music for ambience-heads.

The Ash & The Oak - Searching for the Soft RaysThree years is far too long to wait for a second album from Welsh wonders The Ash & The Oak, whose debut album I went completely bonkers for on the pages of this esteemed website, but at least they are back. And I am glad to announce that TAATO mainman Simon Leighfield is in fine voice on his new album Searching for the Soft Rays, which comprises eleven wonderful songs of uncategorisable psych-folk tuneage. Opener “Fare Thee Well” goes through a number of moods as it wends its way through melody, analogue synths, phased guitars and crashing drums - a great opener! “Dust” showcases Leighfield's astonishing voice, supple, mournful, here multi-tracked into a thing of great beauty; the track then drifts into a fuzzed-up stomper. “War Wounds” is a quirky, synth-heavy cut, while “The End Has No End” is a waltztime charmer, quiet/loud/quiet, with some lovely guitar in the mix, and more heavenly vocals (which remind me in places of Brighton band Delays). “You Are Here” is a delightfully poppy little number - gotta be the next single, surely? - while “Sweet Refrain” brings the layers of vocals and the performance of the main vocal to a new height, even for this singer. An album highlight. “Pennies From Heaven” shrouds the vocals in a middly EQ evoking the seventies rather well, then “The Stars and the Moon” opens in retro mode, all plinking harpsichord-like keyboards and spangly tambourine, before tougher instruments enter, creating a cut that Pugwash would think a lot of. “There's Always a Feeling” floats into an arrangement that cries out “summer!” while “Everyone Says” is another high quality waltz-time tune. Album closer “Quadrology”, b-side of the single released some time ago now, is a complex rock-out that manages to be not-TAATO and TAATO at the same time; furiously seventies. Okay Ray, you'll be wanting your promo quote now: “Fulfills the promise of the debut album while exploring great new avenues”.

Outside the Museum - SouvenirsOutside the Museum is lo-fi solo artist and Sheffield resident Benjamin Catt, whose mournful songs tell very brief tales on the album (it's EP length really) Souvenirs. “Old Age” sets the tone of the work - stripped back arrangements, found sounds, much melancholy. “The Royal Mail” has a bit of a Velvet Underground vibe, while on the highlight cut “Bones” Catt's voice evokes Bernard Sumner of New Order. “Teenagehood” follows - harsher sounds and fuller arrangement - while “The Dying Light”, another highlight, matches a vocal that somehow evokes emotion through its restraint with a grunge-lite guitar and a wobbly synth. Great track, this. Album closer “All My Days” is rather minimal. An acquired taste, I suspect, but with much to recommend it.

Nu & Apa Neagra - Black Water IncantationAnd now for something completely different: Romanian avant-weirdness with a multitude of instruments and no discernable melody or conventional structure. Welcome to the world of Nu & Apa Neagra, residents of Timisoara, purveyors of electroacoustic madness on their new album Black Water Incantation, and, according to their one-sheet, bringer of “a vertical approach towards the sound” placed into “an occidental equation”. Ye-e-e-es... I think that means standing up and trying to approach the West. Anyway, this is completely weird and bizarre, which is not normally my thing unless well done... and yet this has something. On the second track “A Pilgrim” the intensely sinister sampled vocals and freaky sounds create an amazing atmosphere, while “Another Pilgrim” is the same, but with different sounds. The nineteen minute final cut “The Black Water” is in comparison music of wonder and beauty, as sampled instruments, synth chords and sound effects roil around and through the psychedelic heart of the album, as if experiencing some kind of demented black-and-white acid trip. This is an album for which the descriptors 'occasionally amazing' and 'occasionally unlistenable' equally apply. Fantastic artwork, incidentally.

Apperception - s/tApperception is Joey Hoyda of Toronto, Canada, whose album Apperception is a formally minimal (i.e. like Steve Reich) work using rock instruments, though originally arranged differently. The music aims for math-rock but in fact misses completely because of an organic quality lent by the multi-tracked electric guitars. On the opening cut “Daybreak” this is unremarkable, but the album comes to life on “Zappa Memorial BBQ”, whose dense network of intertwining guitar lines creates something rather good. “Mandala” is slow and melancholy, “Eternal Recurrence Of The Same” is too short for such a lovely sound, while “Phusis”, “Clairvoyance” and “Awakenings” all develop and vary the multi-tracked solo arpeggiated guitar vibe, with the latter cut adding a lovely shimmer underneath. “Panta Rei” does likewise, but less successfully. Difficult to know who this music is aimed at, but it has much to recommend it.

Ginger - SeahorseSeahorse by Swiss blues/rock/psych combo Ginger is a trawl through various heavy tropes: rock, psych and blues, in that order. Opening with “Yeager”, which sounds like Hawkwind meeting Cream, the rest of the album does essentially the same thing, adding nods to Hendrix, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin, often successfully. “200 Horses” is a mighty fine cut, as is the anthemic “I Don't Know”, but other cuts are a bit of a drudge. The playing however is uniformly excellent, with some mighty fine guitar playing and subtle, well-mixed Hammond organ. The heaviest cut on the album - the title track - is also the least interesting. You takes your pick... One for fans of classic early rock bands, and bands like The Soulbreaker Company.

The Perishers - All These YearsAll These Years by The Perishers is an album for whom the adjectives 'jangly,' 'melodic' and '90s pop' must surely be the most apposite. I liked this album, and not just because of the Byrds, Stone Roses and Big Star references. Yes, the opening cut “Spectre” is remarkably Stone Roses, but it's a great and original track. “I'll Deny” is another stonker of a cut, albeit a tad less tuneful, while “Mean Old Man” is heavy and bullish, though a bit too close to the Roses' “Love Spreads” for comfort. “This Car” evokes a softer Roses, while the title track is a little jangly gem. “You'll Never Learn To Leave It Alone” is a terrific song with a thunking Motown beat, “Two Parter” is an acoustic rocker with less vocal input, while “White Skies” evokes Madchester well. “Springfield” is a Charlatans-loving album highlight, all hormones and adrenalin, while the closing cut “Cabbage” is a soft and cuddly conclusion. Much as I liked this album, it is a little too much in touch with the Roses for comfort in places. Good listening though.

Anton Barbeau - Empire of Potential: 18 Golden and Completely Obscure Hits18 Golden and Completely Obscure Hits? Well why not, if you are underground cult fixation Anton Barbeau, whose brand of influence includes Julian Cope, Robyn Hitchcock and XTC. On this eighteen cut career retrospective, uptempo songs like opener “Losing You Makes Crucifixion Easy”, “Fuzzchild”, his Youtube hit “Automatic Door”, “MTV Song” and album closer “Mahjong Dijon” battle it out with softer material - “Leave It With Me, I'll Always Be Gentle” (reflective + mad lyrics), “Heather Song” (folky), “Pilot Plane Passenger” and the Donovan-esque “Boat Called Home”. This album too brings out something not always apparent on Barbeau's albums, which is that he has a really good voice, especially in the deeper registers. Hopefully this greatest hits collection will help the man on his march to further underground success.

Red Painted Red - I Am NothingIt's been a while now since I received anything from Mancunians Red Painted Red, whose 2009 EP Preach I greatly liked. The soundworld of that EP is similar to that of the band's new album, I Am Nothing - tribal percussion, synths, sounds and vocals melded into a kind of scary gothic stew. Handmade packaging, as before, complements the release. Yvonne Neve's spellbinding voice is as wonderful as ever, and the arrangements are great, although, it has to be said, the drum sounds are in places less than awesome. After evocative opener “Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap”, the second cut “Days to Die from Paracetamol” is an absolute stunner, marching to a strict electro-beat and sung hypnotically. “Misunderstood” is similarly evocative, with fierce vocals from Neve - imagine a softer, yet even more intense Siouxsie. “Safe In Sleep” is fluffy in comparison, yet there's still steel in that voice, which on occasion reminds me of Tori Amos. “God Song” is overtly tribal - another terrific arrangement - while “I Can't See” manages to sound tinkly and child-like, yet frightening, as the emotional content of the music is ramped up with sampled vocals. “Blow” comes over like an even more freaky Kate Bush cut, while “White Space” features a lovely cello part counterpointing the more melodic vocal line. Closing track “Wondering How They Fly” wraps up the experience in great style. Why isn't this band absolutely massive?

The Lucid Dream - Heartbreak GirlThe Lucid Dream specialise in classic psychedelia, delivered in retro fashion and drenched in reverb. On their new single “Heartbreak Girl” the vocals are drawled, the vibe is Jesus & Mary Chain and the lyrics are probably intentionally ironic. Hmmm, two minutes... b-side “I Feel So Lonesome”, twice as long, is at least twice as good; a swoony trip of a song. Fab - but make it the A-side guys.

The Nova Saints - NewfoundlandFrom the opening of Newfoundland by The Nova Saints a kind of gutsy melodic pop-rock blasts out of the speakers, nurtured by the psych-loving Northern Star Recordings record label, with whom this band have been associated for some time. Opening cuts “Sugar Coated” and “High Roller” set out the band's stall, which is tuneful and rocked out - this band would definitely have been on Creation Records had they been around back in the day. “Take It Or Leave It” offers a classic descending bassline with a bit of a Verve vibe, while the more acoustic “Whirlpool” is artier, though less successful. “Slow Down” brings in organ and shimmering guitars for another majestic cut (and album highlight), while “The Draft” is a short stab in the ears by a whopping vocal and mental production. Fantastic. “What Does It Feel Like” showcases the band's more sensitive side but lacks the tune to carry it, while “Indian Summer” has another storming chorus. “Lights” again matches a great chord sequence with anthemic vocals, while the blink-and-you'll-miss-it “I Wouldn't” is shouty and vulgar. “Ten Year Silence” channels punky energy before album closer “The Last Song””, a seven minute acoustic/electric rocker that promises much and almost delivers. A great album by a great band, who, when they get it right, get it so right.

Sway - This Was TomorrowThis Was Tomorrow by Californian wall-of-sound dream merchants Sway (although they started out 13 years ago as garage-rockers) is the kind of massively reverberated, fey, half whispered half sung music that fans of The Cocteau Twins (of whom I'm one) might like. This isn't quite so haunting as Fraser & Guthrie, but it does the job, and in places reaches a plateau of its own. Opener “Palos Verdes” is a huge soundscape, the vocals buried deep in the mix, occasional chord changes propelling the song forward, while “What I Know” is the same but with clearer drums. On “Running In Circles” the drums are replaced by a drum machine, and mainman Andrew Saks' vocals acquire a female friend, adding to the gentler vibe. There's a hint of autotune though, which is a little distracting. “Nucifera” and “Mary Blair Murals” both acquire a kind of epic quality through the use of reverb and huge walls of synthesizers - great stuff - but the track that separates them, “Only Tuesday”, is a bit of a bleep-fest. The album closes with “What I Didn't Get to Say”, which deviates little from the previously used formula. The hint of autotuned vocals (if they're not, I apologise) don't quite do it for me, but this is a good effort, if a little bland in places. The epic tracks though really are epic.

The Sunshine Factory - SugarOn the same label as Sway (Saint Marie Records) but rather different in approach are The Sunshine Factory, who on their new album Sugar reference big reverb and British sounds, but this time more shoegaze than Cocteaus. I suppose we Brits, who make the greatest music in the world, should be flattered at all these 90s-loving bands coming out of America. Sugar is pretty damn good - great sound, good songs, big production. “Down” has great guitar lines, “Smile” does the Madchester 4/4 shuffle-beat thing, while “Domino” is lighter, yet rockier, thanks largely to the grittier production. “Don't Fall Asleep” - such a tempting track title for a reviewer to get his teeth into - is actually rather lovely, while “Twisted and Clover”, alas, did make my eyelids droop. “My Bon Ami” comes over rather like that wonderful album Death To God by DeVries, which I reviewed here a couple of years ago, while “My Sugar Cane” fires up the synths and gets a good bass line going - an album highlight, although listening I unavoidably thought of Liz Fraser singing it. It is very Twins, while closing cut “Head Becomes the Tomb” is also a bit Twinsy. A very good album this, and if you like the Brit sound pioneered in the 80s and 90s you'll enjoy it.

Lazyflux - s/tLazyflux are a London-based quintet whose brand of trip-rock is explored on their debut, self-titled release. Comparing themselves to Pink Floyd and Elbow is a bit misleading I feel, but links with the Beta Band - and, I'd say, with Beta-offshoot The Aliens - are a better fit. On “Istigeit” the Aliens’ soundworld is particularly strong; a good cut, this. Other highlights are “Trail Blazers of a Failed Experiment” (a more in-yer-face sound), the manic “Create Escape”, and “Thick Skin”, which matches mesmeric lyrics with a slinky beat and bass. There's not enough variety in the overall sound though, and I suspect this is a self-produced release that could, perhaps, have done with an outside ear. Good music though when it works, which is more often than not.

Hammock - Asleep in the DownlightsLast year I greatly enjoyed the Longest Year EP by Hammock. On their new release Asleep in the Downlights the band join up with two members of The Church, Steve Kilbey and Tim Powles, adding vocals to the previously instrumental mix. Opening cut “No Agenda” is a dreamy track with half spoken, half sung vocals courtesy of Kilbey, followed by “Sinking Inside Yourself”, which launches floaty guitar over reverberated drums in classic instrumental Hammock style (although there are faint hints of chorused vocals deep in the mix). “Verse for Forgiveness” brings in Tim Powles on vocals for the EP highlight, while “Parkers Chapel” features vocals and a spectrally slow rhythm. Very enjoyable, with the guest vocals making the EP a bit special.

Chuck Johnson - A Struggle Not a ThoughtThe beautifully recorded solo acoustic guitar pieces of Chuck Johnson on A Struggle Not a Thought seem at first to be something of an oddity for this musician steeped in electronica. Links with American bands such as Shark Quest, Idyll Swords and Spatula also fail to suggest the intimacy and starkness of these eleven guitar pieces. All of them are wonderfully performed and nicely recorded - mix and reverb suggesting one man in a room, as should be. Some tracks are slow and steeped in Americana (“A Slender Thread”, “Swallow The Sun”) while through others, notably “Alight In The Nor'easter” where Johnson's amazing technique drags you through the dense music, a thread of darkness runs. “Scene Shop Spectre” reminded me of Steve Hackett's classic “Horizons” in form and in the chiming quality of the individual notes, while album closer “The Stars Rose behind Us” again melds an exceptional fingerpicking technique with a hint of wide-skied Americana. A more intense listen than you would think from "just" one man and his guitar.

Pugwash - GiddyDuncan Maitland - Lullabies for the 21st CenturyIf there is a band that I really like, and wish there was more of, it's Pugwash, purveyor of fine and gorgeous songs - check out the comp Giddy if you haven't already. Now Duncan Maitland, formerly half of that band, has his own solo album Lullabies for the 21st Century, which is as superb a collection of songs as I've heard for a long time. Real tunes, fine arrangements... ooh, lovely. The collection opens with the swoonsome “Your Century”, which evokes Pugwash but also classic pop bands like 10cc and The Beach Boys. Bliss! “Terry the Toad” matches a great tune with a solid arrangement and playful lyrics, “Crash Position” does the Beach Boys/High Llamas thing yet manages to stay original and sound lovely (Sean O'Hagan must be green with envy), while “Handbirds” is slower and has a particularly beautiful arrangement - more bliss. “Alien At Home” has more of a stomping arrangement, “Horror Stories” brings in girlie backing vocals and strings for that big pop sound, while “Up To You” opens like a torch song but then goes all Beatlesesque to make a jaunty number. “Supermarket Dream” is soft and, again, swoonsome, while “Lucky Dream” also slows down the mood and ramps up the melancholia - two great cuts, perfectly placed in the album as a whole. “Cry Me To Sleep” is suitably evocative, while album closer “Insect under the Stone” is a curious little song with a pattering, jazzy beat and a unique vocal delivery. This album oozes quality, celebrates songwriting and sounds fabulous. Very highly recommended.

pacificUV - WeekendpacificUV, on their third album Weekend, offer a kind of extended space-pop that looks both to the past and the future. A brief, spacey instrumental opens the album before the synth-pop of “Funny Girl” sets out the band's stall: quite eighties, quite robotic. “Just4kix” increases the drum machine/synth quotient, while “I'm Here (But It's Not Me)”, an album highlight, melds funky bassline with a really good synth arrangement. This slower kind of track is where the band excels. “High” is another album highlight; the vocals are better and the atmospheric production really works. Alas “Be My Only Shallow Love” shows where the music doesn't work; then “Going Home” shows where it does, as does concluding cut “Unplug Me”, which is really lovely. An album of two halves; much to recommend it, but a few failures also.

Gabriel Miller Phillips - One for the CrowNew York resident Gabriel Miller Phillips is a singer/songwriter in the Jeff Buckley/Elliot Smith mode, here with new album One for the Crow. At once the quality of the man's voice is apparent - emotive, soft, yet full of steel, which perhaps is due to the personal obstacles this musician has had to overcome. “I Saw You” is a terrific opening cut - epic and intimate at the same time, which is no mean feat. “Katie Mae” beds itself on acoustic guitar and string instruments, has a lovely, hushed chorused and a quite beautiful arrangement. “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” has a dark, almost sinister arrangement and is one of the album's highlights, while “24 Karat Man” is light and perky in comparison - another highlight. “Star Crossed” begins the second half of the album with an upbeat/downbeat tale of boy-girl love, where the girl turns up to sing - a contribution from band member Lea Thomas - while “Matchstick Man”, which I think, lyrically at least, must be the fulcrum of the album, is a gloomy assessment of life and love. “Two Time Fool” has perhaps the album's best vocal performance, then “Last Dance” ends the album with strength and sadness. Music of quality and distinction, delivered in a heavenly voice.

Harvey Lord - YokeHarvey Lord are nouveau-folkies on Scotland's Autumn Ferment record label, who on their album Yoke offer a handful of quirky instrumentals and a number of strange songs, interspersed with longer meditations on life and weirdness. On “Legs Of Beetles” an echo of the Simpsons theme tune hovers into view (unintentionally I imagine), but the cut, like many others, shows the variety of unusual instruments this band can utilise - hangdrum, ocarina, saw, didge, melodica, banjo... Lyrically the album covers many fields - trout fishing, trout poaching, ghosts, alcohol. The instrumentals work better than the songs, not least because the songs, in an album of brief explorations, seem rather an afterthought. But “High Street” is evocative, “If You See Bears” is amusing, and “The Fish One” is charming. Two strong songs however conclude the album, “If Thou Art A Demon Then I Will Destroy Thee!” with its flutes and sparse arrangement and the title track, the longest cut on the album, and perhaps the best, telling tales of farmer's land and all the things that can happen on said land. A curate's egg, this one.

Laura J Martin - The Hangman TreeLaura J Martin on her debut album The Hangman Tree does fey perhaps a little too fey-ishly; this is an album for fans of Woodpecker Wooliams, Kelli Ali, Miwa Gemini et al. The opening clutch of tracks hop between fey moods, but then “Salamander” hovers into view, with the contributions of Gorky’s mainman Euros Childs and none other than Neil Innes on bass and guitar. “Tom” is wonky folk (that works), and “Spy” is even better - multi-tracked vocals, a melody and some groovy flute. The concluding tracks are much like the openers, though I did like “Sleepwalker”. This is by no means a bad album, nor even a mediocre one, it is just rather unfocussed - could perhaps have done with concept to knit it all together, especially as it is a debut; or perhaps the shorter tracks could have been merged into longer pieces.

Dan Heywood - John's ShoesNow then, who is Dan Heywood, and who might his New Hawks be? Well, I'll tell you. On the single “John's Shoes”/“Superquarry” the voice is colloquial and unique (a vague hint of John Ottway?), the sound folky, the arrangement groovy. A great cut, as is the b-side. But the album - a double CD covering thirty two songs - is a different matter entirely. This is a collective of musicians attempting something really big. The story is this: over five years, mainman Dan Heywood travelled around his beloved Highland Scotland watching birds and watching people, collecting inspiration as he did and writing the suite of thirty two songs here presented. The style is new-folk with various augmentations - beautiful strings on the opening cut “A Rack”, for instance. Elsewhere, “My Love Was Set On Xmas Eve” is a kind of ultra-slow folk ballad which twists and turns in various directions, “String Eagle” is mightily evocative, while “Old & Grim” is lyrically brilliant and also features a marvellous Floydesque instrumental section in the middle. Disk two opens with another folky number, “Jackaroos”, which has a live feel. “Smiley Patch” brings in a little cosmic Americana and is a strong cut too, as is the oh-so slow and gloomy “Five Red Castrils” (terrific, if idiosyncratic vocals here). “Eagles of Black Sutherland” is an eleven minute cut that seems to cover some of Heywood's more personal concerns. “Muscle Beach” follows the single b-side, contrasting nicely, and featuring a very stripped-back arrangement. The percussion arrangements and guitar trills make “New Wool” an album highlight, while album closer “Peatshack McKay” is more “together” than a couple of the earlier tracks, and, with the addition of pedal steel guitar, makes a fine conclusion. Quite an achievement, though, inevitably, a rather long trek.

Susan Matthews - A Kiss for the Umbrella ManIan Holloway - These Clockwork TidesA trio of releases from Quiet World now, beginning with the work of Susan Matthews, who has been featured in these e-pages before. Taking extracts from and interpreting the work of Erik Satie, the EP A Kiss for the Umbrella Man is typically understated piano-based music. Vocals emerge from deep in the mix on “Du Coin de la Main” and on “Suel, Pendant un Instant”, where the voice is recorded, like a treasured memory.

Sujo - Eilat

Ian Holloway on These Clockwork Tides reflects on the South Wales landscape that, in this album of textures and drones (mostly acoustic, though you wouldn't guess from the skilled recordings), evokes shoreline environments. “The Grey Wake” breaks through the drone textures with what sounds like inside-piano sounds, while the title track utilises a piano played with its keys. The heart of the album though is the twenty five minute concluding track “Firelight” - spooky indeed.

Eilat by Sujo is also a work of drones and ambience, this time from one Ryan Huber, invited by Ian Holloway to join the Quiet World network, but the album bursts into crashing drum textures also, making the listening experience pretty intense in places. Four tracks covering just over half an hour make a kind of gothic swamp of drums and drones, where the textures are both harsh and transcendent. Something rather different from the quiet world!

Magicfolk - s/tI liked the debut album Magicfolk by Magicfolk (reviewed here in 2008), and now here comes the band's second album of pagan, mystical folk-rock, Tales of Power, centred as before around songwriters Ben and Michelle Glover. And as before this is one for fans of Circulus, Mellow Candle or Renaissance: folk and pagan influences strong, with some rock arrangements. Fans of Mostly Autumn might also like this band. Opener “Call Time” does all the above genres, as does the progressive-sounding “Nagual”. Mandolin and a narration about fairy rings and elves greet us in track three, “The Faery Ring”, which then moves into a dual-vocal song that again boasts progressive influences - a very good cut, this one. “Lion Tamer” is soft and beautifully sung, the arrangement showcasing Michelle Glover's voice, and Lee Morant on electric guitar. “Desert Song” is undoubtedly the album highlight - gorgeous drifting textures, a lovely arrangement of voices and flute; quite something. “Into The Blue” attempts blues, unsuccessfully, but then “Dragonspell” returns us to odd time signatures and hippy-dippy lyrics. “Wiccan Dance” is a kind of modern take on Jethro Tull - it works very well - while “Death & The Maiden” is rocked-out, though with vocals perhaps too tame to match it: more “oomph” required. “Winged Bull” is another soft slow-burner, that this band does so well, while concluding cut “Dweller” is deceptively folky. The promise of the debut album is more than matched by this excellent piece of work. Recommended.

Garth Adam - Travelling EPThe three track EP Travelling by Garth Adam is a trio of chunky pop cuts, opening with the excellent “Staring At The Window”, though the man does sound just a little like Damon Albarn. Good song though. “Hands across the Border” is slower and more of a drift - still high quality - while “Book for Girls” is back to uptempo and tuneful. There's definitely songwriting talent here. Nicely produced, too.

The Scrapes - Kali Yuga SunriseAvant-garde sonic trickery is the watchword of Kali Yuga Sunrise by The Scrapes, an antipodean duo comprising Brisbane's Adam Cadell on violin scraping and Ryan Potter on guitar mangling. The music veers wildly between curious, difficult, odd, interesting and annoying. So, for example, “Golden Cloud” is heavenly, but the title track is horrible. Where the band aim for beauty they succeed; everywhere else they fail. Julian Cope likes them though.

Akhet - TF117To conclude, a trio of Tonefloat Records releases, beginning with TF117 by Akhet, which is essentially a one-off, never-to-be-repeated jam between drone king Dirk Serries, guitarist Paul Van Den Berg and Marc Verhaegen, with the latter reknowned for The Klinik and for his Vidna Obmana collaborations. The resulting four track electronic excursion is a fairly coherent (given its improv origins) album of spooky electronic music, the sequences excellent, though the guitar becomes a little annoying after a while, as its tone and timbre never varies. One for EM fans familiar with the set-up here.

Bass Communion - CenotaphBass Communion is the electronic project of ubiquitous prog-botherer Steven Wilson, who, on Cenotaph, offers four lengthy tracks of drone-drift. Ignoring the ludicrously pretentious sleeve notes, the music is actually pretty good, with a suitably gothic selection of drones, washes and sounds, occasionally underpinned by almost-rhythms that seem to come from deep underground. All in all, much better than I thought it was going to be.

Sand Snowman - The World's Not Worth ItThe World's Not Worth It by Sand Snowman is the best of this trio however, a seven track odyssey into classically-influenced songwriting, where the songs are complex, even labyrinthine, and where the mix of voices, acoustic instruments, subtle electric guitar and light drumming works a treat. The opening (unnamed) cut is a delight, sounding a bit like a King Crimson out-take from Lizard. Other (also unnamed) cuts explore pastoral territory, piano idiosyncracy, choral arrangements, dark whimsy (the sixth track) and even a “normal” song. Very enjoyable listening, and therefore recommended.



σχόλια αναγνωστών

Tags: Layers of the Onion, Andrew Cronshaw, In the Labyrinth, The Orbweavers, Dark Ocean Colours, Spherulus, The Ash & The Oak, Outside the Museum, Nu & Apa Neagra, Apperception, Ginger, The Perishers, Anton Barbeau, Red Painted Red, The Lucid Dream, The Nova Saints, Sway, The Sunshine Factory, Lazyflux, Hammock, Chuck Johnson, Pugwash, Duncan Maitland, pacificUV, Gabriel Miller Phillips, Harvey Lord, Laura J Martin, Dan Heywood, Susan Matthews, Ian Holloway, Sujo, Magicfolk, Garth Adam, The Scrapes, Akhet, Bass Communion, Sand Snowman


17 Pygmies , Acid Rumba , Akhet , Amanda Joe Williams , Andrew Cronshaw , Anduin , Anneliese Monseré , Anton Barbeau , Apperception , Awaken , Bass Communion , Beau , Benjamin Folke Thomas , Bill DeMain , Black Fortress of Opium , Black Sunny Day , Boduf Songs , Brainworlds , Caltrop , Cat Frequency , Cheers Elephant , Chuck Johnson , Clepsydra , Crewdson , Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands , Dan Heywood , Daniel Bachman , Dark Ocean Colours , Deseri Island Dicks , Detective Instinct , Diagram8 , Dixie Witch , Drowner , Dumb Angel , Duncan Maitland , Dwellers , Edgar Breau , England In 1819 , Evariste , Feorm , Freedom Hawk , Gabriel Miller Phillips , Garth Adam , Geese , Gerald Hawk , Ginger , Hammock , Harvey Lord , Heart of Palm , Heroin In Tahiti , Hisato Higuchi , Human Adult Band , Hyrrokin , Ian Holloway , Ido Bukelman , In the Labyrinth , Infernal Overdrive , Isidore , Jack Jeffery , Jacques A Robin , Jason Ajemian and the High Life , Jessica Winter , Karina ESP , Knifeworld , Laura J Martin , Layers of the Onion , Lazyflux , Le Système Crapoutchik , Limozine , Love Camp 7 , MARS , Magic Hero vs. Rock People , Magicfolk , Matta Gawa , Matthew Sweet , Miss Massive Snowflake , Music for Dead Birds , My Dad is a Dinosaur , Myty Konkerer , Nastro , North Sea Radio Orchestra , Nu & Apa Neagra , Otowala , Out Like Lambs , Outside the Museum , P.A.U.L. , Palace of Swords , Paul Messis , Pearl Handled Revolver , Peter Delaney , Plosive , Posset , Psychological Strategy Board , Ptolemaic Terrascope , Pugwash , Reanimation , Red Painted Red , Rella The Woodcutter , Rhodri Thomas , Rich Batsford , Rich Osborn , Rumbles , Salamader Wool , Sand Snowman , Sarah Radle , Sea Dweller , Seluah , Sicksharkinspace , Siddartha , Silo Halo , Snorkel , Spherulus , Sproatly Smith , Stephen Jones , Sujo , Sun Of Monkey , Sun Zoom Spark , Super Distortion , Susan Matthews , Sway , TagCloud , Temple Music , Tessa Kautzmann , The Ash & The Oak , The Inner Banks , The Lucid Dream , The Machine , The Method , The Mountain Movers , The Nova Saints , The Orbweavers , The Perishers , The Plimsouls , The Primitives , The Scrapes , The Skeleton Jive , The Sunshine Factory , The Thing , The Unpop Sound , Three Fields , Tom Conway , Tom Sanderson , Trent Miller , Velvert Turner , Vulcan , Vévé Seashore , Where Woodwose Walk , Wicked King Wicker , Woodbine & Ivy Band , Wrinkle Neck Mules , Yoni Kretzmer , Yoshi Wada , pacificUV ,


περισσότερες στήλες