Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.

SINGLE REVIEWS

THE CONSPIRACY Black & White and Still Waters CDRs
The Conspiracy are a long-running underground band, existing in various forms since 1988. Across these 2 demo cds there is a mix of new material and reworked old songs, which continue to show the musical diversity of the band. There's the punky powerpop of Black & White; the innovative Black Hole, which mixes 70s rock riffage with electronic and experimental elements; the bizarre/angry/dark stream of consciousness-style lyrics of Letter to Matt; the excellent laid-back rock with strings that is Caged; Still Waters, which blurs the boundaries between pop, rock and punk; Motives, which combines elements of 80s electropop, goth and punk; and St Columba, an excellent psych-folk-pop song with a tune that stays in the head. The Conspiracy are now signed to Gallipoli Records; stay tuned for more on them in this issue. Meanwhile, contact the band at duncan.pope@virgin.net

PEACE Earth Child CD (Gallipoli)
Some of you may remember Kev Sibley from the largely indiepop based tape label he ran in the 90s, Does This Work? These days he's playing drums with Peace, who the sleeve notes describe as 'cosmic warriors' (somewhat ironically, considering their name is Peace!) and their sound as 'musical ejaculation', both terms suggesting this is going to be a far cry from the bedroom pop Kev was championing in the DTW? days. This is indeed the case; Peace's particular brand of music is traditionally masculine and aggressive, combining influences from 70s rock and 80s metal. The songs here have some pretty impressive psych-rock guitar soloing, but the rest of the sound is far more 80s and sounds rather cliched to these ears. However, the lyrics often suggest Peace have their tongues firmly in their cheeks - some of the themes are so stereotypical of 80s metal that they're probably intended as parody, whilst Crystal Maze is a quirkily humorous song about the Channel 4 programme of the same name. Whether Peace are serious or ironic parody artists, their music is completely non-fashion-driven, and I applaud that, even if their style isn't entirely my thing. In a time when so many bands play music simply because it's fashionable, in search of fame, Peace are refreshingly unconcerned with such things. Contact Kev at Gallipoli via the website, www.gallipoli-records.co.uk

SARANDON The Miniest Album 7" (Runout)
This is a 7 track mini-album on 7", from Sarandon, a band which features amongst them Crayola (aka Crayola Summer), who runs Kabukikore and is also known for his own DIY pop music. Kabukikore is a strange label, sometimes putting out very difficult experimental noise, but at other times giving us the best in quirky bedroom pop. Sarandon, although not on Kabukikore themselves, thankfully fit the 2nd description - their music is off-kilter noisepop with jerky rhythms, sometimes almost punk but really far too angular to fit neatly into that pigeonhole. If you like the sort of stuff on labels such as In Tape, Flitwick or Hemiola, you'll probably like this. Contact Crayola at fieldops@kabukikore.net and Runout at joe@runoutrecords.com

WHEREWITHAL Sixth Form Poetry 7" (Foolproof)
Wherewithal is the latest band featuring Sid Stovold, formerly of Who Moved The Ground? and Inter. Their music is a strongly melodic brand of indierock with punky, melancholic and slightly off-centre tendencies, featuring the powerful vocals of Stacy Hart. Both tracks here are great but my particular favourite is the Stovold-penned I Know This, which combines a super-catchy chorus with sombre and off-kilter moments. Excellent stuff - definitely a band I'd like to hear more from. More info at www.wherewithalonline.com

SEE MY SOUND Hidden Depths 7" (Distraction)
Hidden Depths incorporates drones and other aural atmospherics into a rhythmic indie-rock format. Insomnia adds electronically processed vocals to a delicate, almost folky guitar melody. The chiming guitar piece Stand and Wait is like an instrumental version of 80s/early 90s indiepop. The first track made me think that See My Sound successfully bridge the gap between post-rock and rock; the other tracks show there is even more diversity & versatility to the band's style. An impressive mix of sounds from a band I'd be interested to hear more from. More details at www.distractionrecords.com

MY ELECTRIC LOVE AFFAIR Infinite Mass 7" (Static Caravan)
This single sees the normally electronic-based label Static Caravan diversifying into more guitar-oriented music. My Electric Love Affair are part garage rock, part buzzsaw noise and part early 90s psychedelic drone rock. The music is a paradoxical mixture of the chilled-out and the riotous, with its combination of elongated slowness and piercing noise. More info from www.staticcaravan.org

GANGPLANK Walk The 7" (Static Caravan/Fence)
I've been hearing a lot about the current alternative folk movement (variously termed 'new folk', 'strange folk', etc) and of King Creosote and the Fence Collective as part of that scene. Being a fan of both folk music and alternative forms of musical expression, I was intrigued to hear this single from Gangplank who include amongst them King Creosote, along with three others with bizarre aliases which sound more like band names than person's names (HMS Ginafore, Jim Jams, and The Pictish Trail).
I'm definitely not disappointed; this is fantastic stuff. That Bus You Missed is an intelligent, creative combination of lo-fi experimental pop, folk and French easy listening. Bits of the song remind me of those off-kilter 90s bands such as Pram, but the overall sound is something different entirely. I Don't Know Where To Begin is more overtly folky, but is far from traditional, introducing elements of psychedelia and lo-fi experimentalism. A very beautiful song.
I'm really impressed with this single and am keen to hear more from these artists. Available from Static Caravan as above.

PLEASE NOTE - I had been unable to update the site for around 2-3 months due to reasons way beyond my control. The web hosting company I used to be with were having serious problems and I was unable to carry out any updates. I have now moved to another hosting company, so hopefully things will be back to normal again soon. Stay tuned for more reviews shortly!

VOLTAIRE Zombie Prostitute CD (Projekt)
Ignore the stereotypes of goths being too serious for their own good - for Voltaire, gothic music is fun, making tongue-in-cheek, laugh-out-loud humour out of all the stereotypically 'spooky' subjects. The music itself is also not standard goth, taking on board elements of cabaret, mariachi, classical, Eastern European folk and country, laden with strings and horns. Cantina is a ludicrous and lurid Star Wars themed country song, peppered with anal sex references, which is all the more hilarious for its unlikeliness. This appears alongside a cover of David Bowie's China Girl, and three other of Voltaire's own songs that poke fun at death, hell and zombies. Very amusing and entertaining stuff! More info at www.projekt.com

DARREN HAYMAN Caravan Songs 7" (Static Caravan)
Solo single from Darren Hayman of Hefner. As you'd expect, the 7" sold out superquickly, but I'm reviewing it here as it is now available as a download from the Static Caravan website. The EP features four tracks of lo-fi pop that's rickety and ramshackle in the best possible way. The tunes are catchy and the lyrics bursting with intelligent and witty social commentary. Loft Song adds some 80s-ish bleepy synth to the fractured minimal and occasionally atonal guitar and the trademark wit of Hayman's lyrics. There is also an instrumental track here, Welcome to Cresswell Towers, which is best described as retro folk pop. Great stuff! Visit www.staticcaravan.org to download.

THE LOFT Model Village 7" (Static Caravan)
Well respected 80s indie band The Loft return with this two track 7", which features a guest appearance from Darren Hayman on organ. Model Village is as you might expect, uplifting, summery, jangly indiepop with a strong catchy tune and lyrics of nostalgic idealism. Rickety Frame is a darker and rawer variety of indiepop but still very much of the old school. Both excellent songs, an absolute must for fans of old-style indiepop. Contact Static Caravan as above.

WINDMILL Racing red vinyl 7" (Static Caravan)
Racing is quirky lo-fi piano-driven pop with twin vocals, one of fractured sadness and the other an agitated shriek. Tokyo Moon is another slice of off-centre piano and drum machine based homemade pop with bizarre lyrics, in which the melancholic and the quirky coexist. There are echoes of old-school indiepop here but injected with a dose of zaniness that was largely missing from the original scene. Available from Static Caravan as above.

SIBRYDION Praying for Rain CD (Dell'orso)
4 track ep from the band formed from the ashes of Big Leaves, featuring two songs in Welsh taken from their Jigcal album, and two in English which are exclusive to this release. When singing in English they opt for a driving powerpop/rock approach, and the Welsh songs are coming from a more electronic angle.
Praying for Rain is melodic, harmony-laden powerpop with an unexpected and effective orchestral section. Rhedeg I Ffwyrdd is mellow pop with electronic elements. 40 Thieves sounds influenced by 70s glam rock. Coed A Cnau has a mega-catchy tune based around repetition and a keyboard riff used rather like a percussion instrument, whilst various electronic sound effects weave around in the background. The song manages to effectively combine the hypnotic, the forceful and the melodic.
Much of the material here has huge mainstream potential, whilst also having the credibility and originality to appeal to an underground audience. More info from Dell'orso - gospel.frequencies@macunlimited.net

FUTURE WHIRL Sister of Light CDR (self released)
Future Whirl is the current project of Bard Titlestad, Norwegian musician now based in the USA, who is also known for his earlier recordings as Oberon. Bard terms Future Whirl's genre as 'Devotional music', and indeed it does have a strongly spiritual quality. Sister of Light concerns earth spirituality and a love for a soulmate which reaches mystical proportions. Musically it is sophisticated pop, melodic and moving, based largely around piano and atmospheric synth. Mystic Journey (Pt. III) is a beautiful laid-back song which introduces an acoustic guitar style reminiscent of traditional Spanish music. Sun Whirl is an ethereal instrumental combining elements of ambient and spacerock. An immensely talented artist whose music never ceases to impress! More info at www.futurewhirl.com

MELODYGUILD Aitu CD (Projekt)
4 track EP from the new band of Love Spirals Downwards' vocalist Suzanne Perry. This is her first new material in almost a decade, which continues seamlessly from where Love Spirals Downwards left off. Panamint is very much in the vein of Suzanne's previous band, a dreampop/janglepop crossover with soft acoustic guitar strumming combined with washes of atmospheric noise. Accomplice is very fine janglepop with dreampop hints, very much in the early 1990s style. Flicker could be described in much the same way, only a touch more introspective and melancholic in tone, and then towards the end it explodes into a huge burst of atmospheric noise. Un Parallel departs somewhat from the 90s sound; whilst it's still recognisably a dreampop/janglepop mix, it builds on the original formula with more mature and sophisticated rock touches. An impressive offering from this band, whose personnel's background in 90s dreampop means their new material is still very much in the original spirit of the genre. Available from www.projekt.com

ASHBERRY Resin CDR (Wounded Wolf)
Beautifully presented in homemade packaging, this CD features three tracks of experimental soundscape music from inventive Turkish project Ashberry. In a time when so much supposedly 'experimental' music just sounds predictable, Ashberry offer something new. Drones and sound effects are combined with neoclassical piano in And They Come In The Form Of Rain; Myra is an evocative and creative piece in which multi-layered guitars and violin provide their own melodies all at once whilst birds sing softly in the background; and I Can't Say combines piano, guitar, flute, jingling bells and whistling wind and rain sound effects for maximum atmospheric effect. The melodies here are subtle, but whilst this is not strongly tuneful music, it certainly doesn't sound jarring. This is gentle and very listenable music with a strong sense of the artistic about it. Definitely worth listening out for, for those who appreciate well-crafted experimental music. More info at www.woundedwolf.wordpress.com

SHAY TAL Bring In All The Horses CDR (Stone Premonitions)
A few years ago there was a band called Shay, comprising Stephen Robson (ex-Punishment of Luxury) and Finn Millar. Shay Tal is their latest incarnation, and they have this 4-song EP out on the continually recommended Stone Premonitions label. Finn has a distinctive vocal style, comparable perhaps to Kate Bush. The music is classic songwriting that transcends genre, and adds a lot of creative touches and unusual instrumentation (woodwind, autoharp, off-kilter keyboard sounds, atmospheric choral-style backing vocals). Shay Tal are amazingly talented artists - I can highly recommend this EP. Info from www.myspace.com/shaymuzic and www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions

KITES The Green EP CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Kites is another band featuring Steve Robson, along with Stone Premonitions co-founder Tim Jones (also of The Rabbit's Hat, Census of Hallucinations, and other projects), and various other artists. They make a sophisticated type of music that is not easily pigeonholed. Green starts off fooling the listener into expecting a kind of bombastic orchestral prog rock, then there are some ethereal choral style vocals, then when the song gets going it turns into a kind of laid-back folk-rock with synthesized strings and gospel-tinged backing vocals. Right Thing is synthpop meets bluesy, funky rock, with the (unusual for both of these genres) addition of accordion. A different version of Green completes the EP. The songs are conventionally song-structured, with a catchiness that is likely to appeal to a wide audience, but so musically diverse that they defy categorization. More info at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions

THE GLOBAL BROAD BAND Waddya Want CDR (Stone Premonitions)
The Global Broad Band are The Reverend Rabbit (whose vocal style leads me to believe is probably an alter-ego of Tim Jones) and Paddi (of Body Full of Stars), along with various guest musicians. In Waddya Want, the Reverend rants away on various sociopolitical issues (corrupt politicians, war, brainwashing by the media) over a heavy rock instrumental incorporating elements of prog and punk. A Different Kind is heavy bluesy psych-rock that starts off gutsy and impassioned enough, then the Rev. unleashes the full extent of his anger by telling us in no uncertain terms what he thinks of politicians, religions, gullible people, 4x4 drivers, corporate media, surveillance cameras and racism, in language that is not for the squeamish or prudish. This England is a prog rock track with more of the social commentary we have come to expect from the Reverend Rabbit. Here he laments the sorry state of his home country, populated by gullible fools obsessed with what's on TV. Seriously no-holds-barred stuff on offer here, guaranteed to offend all who are happy to accept the status quo. Contact Stone Premonitions as above.

ROOT DECO A Sip of Champagne CDR (Stone Premonitions/Stone Island)
Promotional taster of Root Deco's forthcoming Champagne World album, a joint release from Stone Premonitions and the similarly named and like-minded Stone Island label. S.O.S. is essentially the American kind of folk-rock, combined with the rawness and noisiness of garage rock. Big Parade is ultramelodic psych-rock, whilst What's With You? is 70s style heavy rock with bluesy elements. Finally there is a cover of Cream's Deserted Cities of the Heart, presented in the same kind of raw retro rock style as their own material. Root Deco's style is authentically vintage, even down to the dirty, unpolished production quality that almost sounds like it was recorded in mono. Worlds apart from all the fake retro bands of recent years, who rip off stuff from the 60s in order to follow fads, it is very clear from listening to Root Deco that they really practise what they preach, they really live this sort of music, not simply act it out. Truly excellent stuff - am very keen to hear the full album. Further info from Stone Premonitions as above, as well as www.stoneislandrecords.com and www.rootdeco.com

THE LEGENDARY TEN SECONDS Introducing... CDR (Golden Pathway)
The Legendary Ten Seconds is one of several bands featuring Ian Churchward (the others including old-school indiepoppers The Morrisons, and traditional English country dance band Phoenix). The Legendary Ten Seconds make jangly indiepop straight out of the late 80s. Like many examples of this genre, the happy-go-lucky melodies and arrangements often mask a melancholic mood, as seen in lyrics like "It's a beautiful day but I want to cry/Inside my thoughts turn to cloudy skies". This is real authentic old-school indiepop, made by someone who was involved in the scene the first time around (The Morrisons were originally formed in the 80s, and reformed in more recent years). The last track, Medieval Garage, shows a very different side to The Legendary Ten Seconds, and it is this side of the band I tend to prefer, having moved away from indiepop over the last decade or so, in favour of modern interpretations of folk and medieval music. This track is fantastic medieval/Renaissance inspired folk-rock, much in the vein of Philip Pickett and Richard Thompson's The Bones of All Men album, which incidentally I rate very highly. I will be writing about more of Ian Churchward's music shortly, but in the meantime visit www.freewebs.com/thelegendarytenseconds and www.goldenpathway.co.uk for more information.

JINSKI King of the Radio CD (Lucky Smile)
Jinski is a duo from Newcastle upon Tyne, comprising vocalists and guitarists Steve Jinski and Dave Kennedy (the same Dave Kennedy from Stan I wonder?) The first two tracks are minimalistic singer-songwriter music that basically transcends genre, and show Steve Jinski to be a talented songwriter. Both are very well crafted songs with strong, memorable melodies, King of the Radio being more upbeat, whilst Song for Europe has a more sombre, melancholic tone. I Will Not Be Broken is more American influenced, with elements of blues as well as a gospel touch at times. Whatever Happened to the Weekend is a live track, in which the core members are joined by a full band. This is primarily country influenced, with occasional tinges of Irish folk perhaps? It's the first couple of tracks I prefer overall, as they show more of Jinski's own sound, with no obvious influences from specific genres. That said, the other tracks are not a stereotypical, cliched interpretation of the types of music that they are drawn from, and there is still evidence here of Steve Jinski's own songwriting style, even if the songs are easier to pigeonhole. Whatever Happened to the Weekend in particular has a strong tune that stays in the head. More info at www.myspace.com/wwwmyspacecomjinski

THE SLEEPLESS Noise of Life CDR (self released)
Four songs from London band The Sleepless, whose music is a brand of alternative pop with a strong sense of melancholy and emotion, peppered with off-kilter changes, found sounds such as traffic noise and crackly radio, and a whole array of effects pedals and atmospheric touches of synth. I Feel A Darkness Coming On combines 80s indiepop jangle with atmospheric synth effects, whilst Destined for Heaven is an instrumental introducing elements of ambient and post-rock. An artistic, creative sound with an attention to detail that is often lacking from much other music. Contact The Sleepless via www.myspace.com/sleeplesslondon

COLT You Hold On To What's Not Real CD (Obvious)
Colt used to be Living with Eating Disorders, a name that attracted a great deal of controversy that the band had neither sought nor expected. Eager to move away from this, their more recent material has been recorded under the name Colt. This EP, the 2nd CD released under the new name, features 4 main tracks plus 4 bonus remixes. Colt's music is best described as a dark, edgy brand of electronic pop, combining equal amounts of melodic and experimental/avant garde tendencies. The remixes are total reinventions of the tracks, introducing harsh, sinister sound manipulation that is in the most part a somewhat difficult listen. The mood becomes lighter for Snakes to Dust (35mm mix), that opts for a soaring, floating ambient sound combined with booming electronic beats, having an overall effect that is very beautiful. Further info at www.coltmusic.co.uk and www.obviousrecords.com

FLAMING JUNE Under My Skin CD (Anchoress)
Alt-folk band Flaming June were originally around in the 90s and have thus been making music in this style a long time before it became fashionable. After a hiatus of a few years, singer/songwriter/guitarist Louise Hamilton has resurrected Flaming June as an acoustic band. This EP is the debut release from this new version of Flaming June, who successfully combine contemporary songwriting with traditional-inspired fiddle instrumentation. It's great to see the return of Flaming June, and with the current upsurge of interest in folk and folk-influenced music, they may finally get the recognition they deserve. More info at www.myspace.com/flamingjuneuk

SYLVANA WHITE Fear CD (DMMG)
I wasn't expecting this to be my cup of tea based on the glossy promotional photos showing Sylvana White to have a fashionable, glamorous image that suggests her music is mainstream pop. The accompanying press release did nothing to change my opinion, its biography of Sylvana revealing her to be a beauty pageant winner, professional dancer and gymnast, and former member of all-girl vocal group Infini-T, who were signed to EMI and reportedly hugely popular in their home country of Canada. My own musical interests lie firmly outside of the mainstream, so I approached this EP with some scepticism.
In fact the lead track Fear came as a pleasant surprise. Whilst clearly being aimed at a popular market, it is far from straight-down-the-middle mainstream music. This song has bite; Sylvana's gutsy vocals, the punchy metal guitar, and even a touch of sitar come together to create a song with way more edginess and kick than anything traditionally associated with commercial pop. The other songs here are more along the lines of what I had initially expected. Change is the type of pop ballad as usually performed by boy-bands, girl-bands and other ultra-mainstream artists. The piano and strings add a sophistication often lacking from this genre however, and even though it's not really my style, I am objective enough to notice that there is a definite talent at work here. Lie is perhaps the most typically mainstream number here; a very commercial pop song with slight tinges of soul, and a bouncy synth arrangement. Again this is not the type of music I would normally listen to, but I can't deny the huge mainstream potential it has, and would not be at all surprised if Sylvana White becomes a worldwide megastar. More information at Sylvana's management website: http://dmmg.webs.com

HOSPITAL NEON Numbers on my Skin CD (Bearsuit)
MAGNITOPHONO Magnet CD (Bearsuit)
Hospital NEON is a collaboration between Predrag Nedic of Serbia and Athanassios Vavaroutas of Greece, whose previous musical projects included PNDC and Housework. On this 4 track EP, 80s indiepop, shoegaze, noisy angular underground rock, and experimental music are all wrapped up in a dark gothic atmosphere, creating some very engaging and inventive alternative music.
Magnitophono is one of a number of aliases of Eleni Adamopoulou, who has also recorded as Giganta and Manekinekod. The music here is a kind of minimalist electronica with a bizarre yet melodic sound. Pieces range from the modern classical-tinged to glitchy electronic experimentation to off-kilter DIY pop.
Two very different yet equally creative releases from Bearsuit, suggesting this label is one to watch out for for underground music by artists with their own ideas. More info at www.myspace.com/bearsuitrecords

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