MELMOTH THE WANDERER (featuring THE HARE AND THE MOON) There Were Faces in the Hedgerow CDR (Reverb Worship)
One long (30+ minute) track in which the music of The Hare and the Moon, including some previously unreleased material, is reshaped by Melmoth the Wanderer. The CD was initially offered as a bonus disc with the first, very limited, pressing of The Hare and the Moon's latest album Wood Witch, but has now been issued separately for those who missed out the first time around. Traditional folk songs such as The Rolling of the Stones and The Great Silkie are sung by a vocalist who prefers to remain anonymous. I respect her decision but also feel that she deserves to be credited for her heavily reverbed, beautifully ethereal signature vocal style. Whilst folk music is one component of There Were Faces in the Hedgerow, it is in the most part an experimental album. Pealing church bells, birdsong, recitation in a language that sounds like Anglo-Saxon, hypnotic repetition, atmospheric effects, ominous and bombastic incidental music for an imaginary horror film, spoken word samples (which may or may not derive from 1970s folk-horror B-movies), atmospheric backwards instrumentation, echoey piano, and menacing dark ambient drones all drift in and out of this surreal dreamscape. I have remarked before on how folk music, one of the most traditional musical forms, has become a source of inspiration for artists with some of the least traditional approaches to music. The aural art you hear on this album will surprise and challenge anyone who still assumes folk is stuffy and dull. Available at www.reverbworship.com or the Reverb Worship ebay shop.
HALEIWA Palm Trees of the Subarctic LP (This is Forte)
Haleiwa is the solo project of Stockholm-based songwriter and musician Mikko Singh. Following the brilliant Wall of Blue Sky 7" on Sunstone Records, Haleiwa returns with third album Palm Trees of the Subarctic, available as a vinyl LP limited to 250 copies, or download. The album was recorded mainly in Mikko's home studio, with Mikko providing most of the instrumentation except for violin (courtesy of Elin Pöllänen) and drums on a couple of tracks (played by Petter Barnevik of Axe and Johan Nordlund of This Gift is a Curse).
Wall of Blue Sky appears here (see last issue's single reviews section for more of my thoughts on this) along with nine new tracks. The Emergency Exit On Fire is bright summer indiepop offset by a tinge of melancholy and combined with minimalistic synth ambience. Palm Trees of the Subarctic is mellow, dreamlike indiepop putting me in mind at times of Brighter and Blueboy. The World Beyond is gentle and laid-back indiepop with the unusual and effective addition of tropical percussion. Årstaviken is an instrumental with melancholic yet hopeful tones, incorporating violin for a luxurious effect. Acai is like all your favourite Sarah bands combined with the ambience of Sigur Rós and the sophistication of a classical orchestra.
This album really is something special, filled with so many beautiful songs that have a deeply moving effect on me. It's an instant classic, which if there's any justice will some day be held up as one of the greats of the indiepop genre. It also has a certain sophistication and inventiveness that gives it the potential to appeal to a wider audience than just die-hard indie kids. I must also comment on the exceptional quality vinyl pressing. It's seen as cool these days for people to sing the praises of vinyl and consider it a superior format to CDs, yet I've had some records that pop and crackle even from new and have such a dullness to the sound that I've had reason to question if I might need a new stylus. There are no such concerns with this album, which has that warm, clear sound that good quality vinyl is supposed to have. A fantastic record all round, available at www.thisisforte.com
THE LEGENDARY TEN SECONDS Richard III CD (Richard the Third Records)
Final installment of The Legendary Ten Seconds' trilogy of Richard III themed concept albums, and the first of the three albums to appear on their newly formed own label Richard the Third Records. The band was founded by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ian Churchward, formerly of The Morrisons, and also features keyboardist and drummer Lord Zarquon, Rob Bright on banjo and guitar, Tom Churchward on melodeon, and vocalists Elaine Churchward, Phil Helmore, Camilla Joyce, and Gentian Dyer. As with the preceding albums in the series, a percentage of the sale price goes towards scoliosis charity SAUK.
The album sets events from the life of Richard III to music, with historical narrations between each track written and read by Matthew Lewis. The music is folk-rock with additional aspects of prog, medieval, and even a nod towards Ian's past musical history in 1980s indiepop in Richard Liveth Yet. Highlights include Requiem, which recalls the Strawbs, the strongly melodic psych/prog tinged folk-rock track Hollow Crown, and the atmospheric and dreamlike Ambion Hill. Find out more at www.facebook.com/richardthethirdrecords
HIERONYMUS BOGS The Angel CD (Awkwardcore)
An innovative and original dark folk album from Hieronymus Bogs (ex-Bogs Visionary Orchestra) and his 15-piece backing band. Men Without Machines is bleak, dark Americana pairing plaintive piano and horns with a surfy twang. No You Just Me is an inventive piece in which a bluesy song is accompanied by neoclassical piano, thumping percussion, dramatic and eerie violin, and the unusual and effective idea of using cello to create an oompah rhythm. Andariega is subdued, bleak and pessimistic, with dreamlike keyboard ambience adding a subtle hint of hope. The Little Ones is stripped down, fractured folk punctuated by crescendos of vibrato-laden organ. The Ascending Soul is a mystical poem on the evolution of the soul through reincarnation, set to a minimal folky harmonium melody. Grappling features lyrics pondering the meaning of life over hushed banjo and an orchestral-esque arrangement centred around soaring flute and pedal steel. Lyrically deep and artistically arranged, the album merges an American folky vibe with classical influences to great effect. Find out more at www.hieronymusbogs.com and www.awkwardcore.com
BLACK CHURCH Heel CDR (Reverb Worship)
Third installment in Reverb Worship's series of CD reissues of Black Church's cassette-only albums, following the instrumental album Madeline Blue and the dreampop-based Less You, both of which were reviewed earlier this issue. While retaining the ethereal feel of the previous albums, Heel is overall a more experimental work. Holiday Songs is dissonant and disjointed in a good way, with a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere. MPG is a floating, relaxing ambient instrumental. Sugar Down is woozy alt-folk meets dark dreampop and bizarre electronic experimentation. Ease into Piece combines Far Eastern and classical influences with ambient drones. Mix In is a fine slice of dark experimental electronic music with arcane spoken lyrics. Diamond Sleeve is a rumbling abstract noise piece coming across like sound effects from an apocalyptic sci-fi movie; whilst there is no melody to speak of, it is oddly engaging. XxX (pronounced 666) is an inventive mix of warped funk and pop, glacial ethereal effects, and homemade electronica, reminding me of the sort of experimental music EE Tapes puts out. A superb album full of artistic musical creations; I'm looking forward to the next installment in the Black Church reissue series! Available from www.reverbworship.com or the Reverb Worship ebay shop.
THE SCHOOL Wasting Away and Wondering CD (Elefant)
Cardiff's The School return with a new album of uplifting 1960s-inspired indiepop. Every Day is sweet, happy-go-lucky indiepop combined with lush strings and a guitar sound and doo-doo-doo backing vocals straight out of the 60s. Love is Anywhere You Find It is a 60s girl group style song filtered through an 80s indiepop lens. All I Want From You Is Everything combines light, airy, dreamlike aspects with catchy 60s-style pop. Til You Belong to Me is a Motown meets indiepop number with blasts of triumphant brass. He's Gonna Break Your Heart One Day brings to mind The Four Seasons' Rag Doll, only shot through with a bleak cinematic atmosphere. The mood lightens again for Put Your Hand In Mine, which returns to the uptempo, carefree sound that tends to characterise The School's music. There's tinkling glockenspiel, a luxurious string arrangement, and a classy 1960s pop feel to the song. I Will See You Soon is very lovely summery indiepop in the best late 80s/early 90s tradition, whilst also adding that touch of 60s sophistication that's a hallmark of The School's approach. Packaged in a lavish fold-out digipak with stylish 1960s-inspired artwork that completely suits the music, the album's combination of heartwarming indiepop with 1960s elegance is a roaring success. Visit www.elefant.com worldwide, or www.elefantuk.com here in the UK to order.
LIFESMYTH In Time CDR (self-released)
Latest album from Scott Smith's long running underground music project. The music is broadly categorisable as psychedelic, spanning a variety of moods from the floaty and dreamlike Below the Known to the heavy rocking Holy High, which pairs drawn-out vocals with hard-hitting riffage and flowing, intricate guitar solos. What You Want is laid-back psych-folk-rock with occasional Middle Eastern tinges, morphing into an ambient soundscape towards the end. If You Want Me is another mellow psych-folk piece, this time with beautiful ethereal orchestration. Change My Mind is an instrumental combining angular and bendy aspects with laid-back, flowing, possibly improvisational moments. Righteous Left Hand combines a medieval-tinged melody with heavy hitting, distorted riffage. A mellow, meandering nature pervades much of the music here, and it's another fine album from this great DIY outfit. Visit www.lifesmyth.com for more info including download links for various Lifesmyth albums.
TÍR NA NÓG The Dark Dance CD (Tír na nÓg Records)
Tír na nÓg's first new album in over 40 years, following three albums on Chrysalis Records in the early 1970s. This new album compiles all four songs from their 2014 limited edition 7" on Fruits de Mer, along with the title track from their recent Fruits de Mer 7" Ricochet, and several other tracks which are new to me and I believe to be previously unreleased. The CD version is out now on the band's own label, with a vinyl version scheduled for release later in the year on Fruits de Mer.
You In Yellow is a fine example of the sort of songwriting that has evolved organically from the folk tradition rather than being an exercise in aping said tradition. The song is very lovely, having a melancholic feeling despite the positive lyrics, and a stark minimal arrangement based solely around acoustic guitar and violin. I Have Known Love is a Silver Apples cover, which melodically resembles an American folk song. It is inventively arranged to include xylophone that sounds a little like the sound of raindrops, creating an off-centre psych-folk effect. The Angelus incorporates an effective chorus in which the melody replicates the sound of ringing bells. There's nice vocal harmonies, poetic lyrics dealing with the changing seasons and the flight of birds, and undulating Middle Eastern-tinged violin. Ricochet is dark-edged psych-folk with Eastern hints, treading a similar path to Stone Breath.
Andria moves away from the folk-inspired sounds heard elsewhere on the album, bringing together bossa nova and Spanish influences with sophisticated pop balladry. Sympathetic Love is laid-back vintage style rock with folk and psych aspects. The Gangway merges the contemporary folky singer-songwriter sound with a more traditional folk influence, and combines these folky aspects with prog touches. The Dark Dance, written by Elly Lucas, is a traditional style fiddle tune swathed in melancholy, recalling Scandinavian folk music just as much as the folk music of Ireland from where the band originates.
An excellent album of forward-looking folk music; for more info visit www.tirnanog-progfolk.com
ALPACA SPORTS When You Need Me The Most blue vinyl 10" mini-LP (Elefant)
Swedish indiepop band Alpaca Sports are joined on this new mini-album by several guest musicians including Lisle Mitnik of Fireflies and Julia Rydholm of The Essex Green and The Ladybug Transistor. The album is produced by Ian Catt, who will need no introduction to anyone who's been following the indiepop scene for any length of time. The main sound on offer here is brilliant jangly indiepop that recreates the same sense of excitement I got when finding out about Sarah Records all those years ago. The songs bring to mind such bands as Another Sunny Day and early Field Mice, although there is more of a sweetness and brightness about Alpaca Sports, and a sense that they may be more keen to embrace the whole 'twee' aesthetic that the Sarah label and its bands rejected, as also seen in the cover art by Ray Kimura, whose paintings evoke a sense of childhood innocence and nostalgia.
But for those who run away at the very mention of tweeness, it must be said that Alpaca Sports' songs are full of warm summer sun and the thrill of falling in love, but they are never silly, embarrassing or childish; they get the balance just right so as to avoid the cloying sugar-overdose that comes with much twee music. They also venture outside of indiepop itself for some of their musical ideas. There's No-One Like You is smooth pop with a tropical summer feel, and a lush string arrangement that would sound at home on a 1970s disco record, yet whilst the song recalls bygone mainstream pop, it still wears its indiepop heart proudly on its sleeve. Where'd You Go has more of that luxurious orchestration and occasional nods towards the 60s with hints of vintage soul and sunshine pop, whilst again still being very much in tune with the indiepop spirit. When I Hold You blends Field Mice-esque indiepop with weeping slide guitar straight out of a 1960s US folk-rock song, and a stylish retro pop atmosphere. This is an exciting album that has made me keen to explore Alpaca Sports' earlier material, which somehow managed to pass me by. Available from www.elefantuk.com here in the UK, or www.elefant.com worldwide.
DIE KATAPULT Kristall Reinheit white vinyl 10" mini-LP (Elefant)
Die Katapult is a Barcelona-based duo comprising Anna Fredriksson of Los Ganglios, and Elena Comas of Neleonard. Influenced by German electronic music, they have chosen to sing in German rather than their respective first languages of Swedish or Spanish. The music is a lot of fun, setting lyrics about cleaning products, German telly, and the Euro lottery to vintage-inspired electropop full of cosmic whooshes and retro-futuristic bleeps, with robotic vocals employed at times for extra sci-fi effect. Kraftwerk is an obvious reference point, though the album is also likely to appeal to fans of underground electropop outfits such as Freezepop, X-Ray Pop, Stereo Total, or Rodney Cromwell. Available at www.elefantuk.com here in the UK, or www.elefant.com worldwide.
SENDELICA Live from the 7th Psychedelic Network Festival 2014 double CD (Sunhair)
Double album from prolific psych band Sendelica, recorded live in Würzburg, Germany. The album is made up of elongated psych-rock instrumentals between 10 and 47 minutes in length (plus one shorter track), incorporating both laid-back and heavy moments alongside the spacey whirr and whoosh of vintage synths and theremin. The band's eclectic spirit also means they take on board aspects of other genres alongside the main psychedelic emphasis. Flowing sax lends a chilled-out jazz feel to some of the tracks, and there are elements of ambient music to be heard at times, whilst Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buddha owes as much to Middle Eastern music as it does to Pink Floyd. The longest track on the album, Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not To Step on the Uninsulated Air, has a spontaneous, improvisational character to match its surreal title, with mindbending melodies being paired with a chugging, hypnotic rhythm. The album, which is also available on vinyl, comes packaged in an impressively designed purple sleeve with futuristic psychedelic artwork and Art Nouveau-esque flourishes. Find out more at www.sunhair-music.de and sendelica.bandcamp.com
BRINSLEY SCHWARZ Live Favourites LP (Mega Dodo)
Brinsley Schwarz, named after the band's guitarist, was a 1970s band who, despite being lauded by the press, achieved little commercial success at the time. The band members did however go on to bigger things after the band's demise, with Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm becoming successful solo artists, and Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews joining Graham Parker and the Rumour. Mega Dodo are releasing a limited edition vinyl-only LP of their live performance at the Cardiff Top Rank in 1974. Must admit I was a little sceptical initially, seeing as Brinsley Schwarz are described, in all earnest, as 'pub rock', a term that's usually used in the circles I move within in a pejorative sense rather than a legitimate genre descriptor. My concerns lessened on reading some background info on the band which revealed that in their case, they are using 'pub rock' to refer to an early 70s scene that arose as an English equivalent of roots-rock/US-style folk-rock, their own influences including such bands as Crosby Stills and Nash, The Byrds, and The Band.
On listening to the album, I would agree that an American folk-rock influence is evident in their sound, although they also add other components such as the use of organ and sax, and songs that sound more inspired by soul, blues, rock 'n' roll, or occasionally pop. A number of the songs do have that sort of 'blokes down the pub' thing going on, and if all the songs were like this the album would have been somewhat off-topic for Aquamarine. There are however a few tracks that don't fit into that mould. Country Girl is perhaps the folkiest track here and the one in which the CSN/Byrds influence is most strong. It's Been So Long is one of the album's poppier moments and features the effective use of an almost baroque keyboard riff. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding is a gutsy rock number that can only be described as anthemic. The album is pressed on 180 gram vinyl and limited to 250 copies, the first 100 coming with a set of memorabilia including stickers, postcards and a reproduction BBC audition sheet. Available as of 14th October from www.mega-dodo.co.uk
US AND THEM Summer Green and Autumn Brown CD/LP (Mega Dodo)
Us and Them are a Swedish psych-folk duo comprising Britt Rönnholm and Anders Håkanson. Following a number of EPs on Fruits de Mer, Ritual Echo, and their own label Withdrawn Recordings, they are now releasing their debut album, which will be out on 23rd October, available as a CD, 180 gram vinyl limited to 250 copies, or a 4 CD set limited to 100 copies, which includes the album plus 3 CD EPs. We Are Sacred is beautiful psych-folk combined with vintage electronica and prog touches. Late Night, Early Morning is delicate folk-pop ornamented by twinkling electronics that evoke an image of soaring through the cosmos. State of Mind sounds like Vashti Bunyan being accompanied by members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Here Again has a warm and cosy sound yet with that slightly eerie and melancholic undertone that you get with all the best psych-folk. Right at the end, the track morphs into a slice of intense, spacey electronic experimentation to rival that of any spacerock outfit. From the Inside, Looking Out is an epic track more than 10 minutes long, featuring cinematic electronics blended with vocal harmony-driven folk with a perfect balance of light and dark. This truly is a top-class album, which perfectly combines mellow psych-folk and retro electronica in a way that really works. It's right up there with the recent Beautify Junkyards album also on Mega Dodo; if you dug that then be sure to check this one out too. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
IKO CHÉRIE Dreaming On CD (Elefant)
Debut album from IKO Chérie, the new project of multi-instrumentalist Marie Merlet, previously of Monade. She is joined here by her former bandmates including Laetitia Sadier, also of Stereolab and late-period McCarthy. This is a very lovely album of ethereal, dreamlike pop. If Every Song Could Break Your Heart pairs floaty, retro-futuristic synth music with sweet, breathy vocals. Colour Me Dark is beautiful atmospheric indiepop. Comme Ferdinand et Marianne recalls vintage French pop (eg Françoise Hardy), ornamented with ethereal electronics. A Room of my Own is delicate, minimalistic, psych-tinged folk-pop with an off-centre edge. Le Jardin des Plantes is light and airy pop inspired by lounge music and bossa nova. Go Now! brings together deep, thoughtful lyrics with sweet indiepop and spacey retro synth. Flowers for Brian is a kind of electronic dreampop, very beautiful. Even the Stars is stylish, retro soul tinged pop, featuring 'shooby-dooby-doop' backing vocals in the 60s girl group style, its lightness masking poignant lyrics of betrayal and heartbreak. Marie Merlet is a seriously talented songwriter and musician, and I will be keeping an eye out for more from IKO Chérie in future. Available at www.elefantuk.com here in the UK, or www.elefant.com worldwide.
BLACK CHURCH Down with Hades CDR (Reverb Worship)
Reverb Worship have been reissuing the early cassette-only albums by Kim Free's project Black Church on CDR, with Madeline Blue, Less You, and Heel having appeared already, all of which were reviewed earlier this issue. These albums are now followed by the latest installment in the series, Down with Hades, which is an all-instrumental album. Gidget bridges the chasm between ethereal goth and new age relaxation music, with maybe a smidgen of fairground music as inspiration for part of the melody. Despite the disparate ingredients that make up the overall sound of the piece, it flows completely naturally, avoiding any accusation of incoherence or contrivance. Amy is a pretty tune combining folkiness with a floaty, otherworldly atmosphere. Percy pairs a meandering, psychedelic melody with eerie gothic accompaniment. Dream Me Up is somewhere between new age, ambient and folk, setting a twinkling folky melody to a chorus of atmospheric synth drones. Evie is a kind of synth-based neoclassical music, with bendy notes lending a slightly unsettling, disorienting feel to the piece. Mary's frenetic, discordant approach evokes to me the sound of chattering voices translated into music. An experimental yet melodic album, full of inventive ideas. Available at www.reverbworship.com or the Reverb Worship ebay shop.
THE BEVIS FROND Example 22 CD (Woronzow)
Following a series of reissues of early albums on Cherry Red, The Bevis Frond are back on their own Woronzow label for this brand new album. Waiting for Sinatra is intense psych-rock combined with ultra-melodic powerpop. Longships is superb powerpop with vocal harmonies. I Blame the Rain is fuzzed-out psych-rock. Hot Sauce or Nothing combines the chug of powerpop with lashings of retro organ. Pale Blue Blood is folk-rock beefed up with hard-hitting psych guitar work. Come With Us is a brilliant janglepop song. Stand Back from the Handle is a prime slice of psychedelic punk rock. The Bevis Frond are on top form on this album, with songs that epitomise the psych-rock/powerpop crossover they are known for, along with deep lyrics that make you think. Very highly recommended! (In the shops, distributed by Shellshock).
SAND SNOWMAN & CHRIS WADE Tell the Trees It's Autumn Again CD (Wisdom Twins)
A superb collaboration between Sand Snowman and Dodson and Fogg's Chris Wade. Whirly Gigue epitomises the artists' original, creative approach. Woozy and hypnotic yet strongly tuneful, the song is a kind of folk shoegaze combined with a certain psych-pop whimsy, and demonstrates the top quality songcrafting skill these artists possess. Spinning Jenny is psych-folk-rock with an off-centre, experimental edge, featuring guest vocals from The Moon Band's Renée Forrester. Prince of Clouds is an evocative instrumental bringing together classical, folk and cinematic aspects, and swathing them in ethereal effects. Chimes of Winter is a delicate and melancholic psych-folk instrumental of great beauty. Swans is dreamlike and atmospheric psych-folk, pairing chiming glockenspiel with prog-tinged guitar. Acts of Life combines the convoluted complexity of prog, funky wah-wah, post-punk bleakness, and a psychedelic atmosphere, effortlessly merging these disparate ingredients to create a cohesive whole. Excellent stuff, well worth tracking down. The album is limited to 100 CDR copies, so be quick! Available at wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com
CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS Nothing is as it Seems CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Census of Hallucinations' latest album brings together the four tracks from their Imagine John Lennon EP from late 2014, along with five new songs that continue the musical and lyrical theme of the EP. The songs have that blend of off-centre-ness and sophistication that characterises all the best prog rock, along with further aspects of psychedelia, spacerock, classic rock, and a disorienting and nightmarish brand of experimental music. They also bring in a touch of electronic dance music in Brainless Ape, a new development for this band and one that works well alongside the other elements of the CoH sound. Census of Hallucinations are a band for whom the lyrics are of equal importance to the music. You will not find formulaic love songs, or words thrown together just because they rhyme; Tim Jones uses these songs as a vehicle for his pull-no-punches social commentary, with barbed lyrical attacks on the small-mindedness, selfishness, hypocrisy and greed that are rife within a culture that encourages the negative kind of individualism ('me me me' self-obsession) while shooting down the positive kind of individuality (thinking for oneself instead of just going along with what everyone else is doing). Census of Hallucinations are all about inventive music and lyrics that get you thinking. The CD is available at www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com, with further information at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions
THE SPECTACLES On Closer Inspection CDR (Stone Premonitions)
The Spectacles, a band that includes members of The Cherry Pickers, are something of a departure from Stone Premonitions' usual style (which tends towards genres like psych, prog, spacerock and experimental), in that they are broadly categorisable as a folk band, though they share the Stone Premonitions collective's tendency towards musical eclecticism, adding much variety to their songs. 4 Hands is a stark and melancholic medieval-inspired choral piece. Happiness and Hope lies somewhere between early country, skiffle and music hall, with ukulele and kazoo adding a slapstick theatre feel. Puffing Billy Wylam Dilly is Appalachian-inspired folk, with washboard used to recreate the sound of a steam train. They do an a capella rendition of the traditional song Sally Gardens, with very nice use of triple vocal harmonies. Liddell's Wood is traditional style folk with lyrics steeped in an appreciation of history and of nature. Whilst the concertina and fiddle-led arrangement falls squarely within the folk genre, the style of bass playing implies an additional jazz influence. The Spectacles' diverse take on folk is worth a listen, the traditional and medieval-influenced pieces being especially in tune with my own tastes. Available at www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com, with further information at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions
LOVE PARADE All We Could Have Been (1989-1990) CD (Firestation)
I was excited to discover that Firestation Records had reissued the works of The Love Parade, a brilliant band I remember from my early explorations of indiepop at the start of the 1990s. This album brings together the tracks from their 7" EPs on A Turntable Friend, their flexi on Dolphin Records (which was run by Stephen Maughan of Bulldozer Crash, who provides sleeve notes), and tracks that only ever appeared on cassette and are thus probably new to the majority of listeners. The 10 page booklet also includes a nostalgic collage of fanzine cuttings and other memorabilia. Priory is a fantastic slice of janglepop with a really catchy chorus. Cruel is punchier and darker-edged, the lyrics revealing a vindictive streak: "I'm not to blame when I say/I never wanna see you smile again". Lyrics of melancholy and resentment also put in an appearance in Wounded, Graeme Elston's cutting wit exemplified in lines like "You're looking pretty - pretty stupid". The song brings together punky chugging bass with dreamlike reverbed jangle, a combination that shouldn't work but does. The incisive lyrics continue in Emptyhead: "What gives you the right to speak your mind when you haven't got a brain?", placed into a musical setting reminiscent of Postcard-era Orange Juice. Perfect Combination is a rollicking indiepop number giving short shrift to snobbishness and narrow-mindedness. The Guilt Chest is superb dreamlike indiepop with a melancholic yet hopeful sentiment. Life introduces a fast-moving keyboard bassline and synth orchestration alongside the jangly guitar, its upbeat atmosphere juxtaposed with world-weary lyrics. An absolutely essential album; Firestation Records are to be heartily applauded for introducing The Love Parade to a new audience with this album. Available at www.firestation-records.de
THE BRAINIAC 5 When Silence Was Sound 1977-1980 and Exploding Universe CDs (Reckless)
Originating in the mid 70s pub/club/festival scene, The Brainiac 5 have been on hiatus since the 1980s but have now returned with an all-new album Exploding Universe, as well as a retrospective album of early material, When Silence Was Sound, released on vocalist/guitarist Charlie Taylor's Reckless label, which has previously been home to various important names from the world of psychedelia, releasing albums by contemporary bands such as The Bevis Frond and The Black Sun Ensemble, and archival material from the likes of The Soft Machine and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. When Silence Was Sound is accompanied by a 16 page booklet with extensive notes and memorabilia photos. It includes 15 tracks from early Brainiac 5 records, plus two live recordings.
Waiting for the Woman combines bluesy rock with punk energy. Endless River begins as mellow psych-rock, before launching into an off-kilter psych-prog-punk frenzy. Move Up Trotsky has shades of 1960s psych-pop as well as heavier strains of psychedelia, but adds plenty of original ideas that make the song fresh and timeless. Monkeys and Degenerates is an ingenious mix of mod, psych, punk and reggae. Working is an off-centre, psychedelic take on ska-punk. Power is essentially indie-rock from a time before indie-rock had been invented! Addicted is a fine slice of punk-pop, melodic yet bursting with power and energy. Whilst The Brainiac 5 draw from genres popular at the time, like punk and ska, their incorporation of psychedelia as well as their own idiosyncratic inventions shows them to have been a hugely original, pioneering band. As they were so original, their music doesn't sound like a product of its time, but instead still sounds new and relevant today.
Despite a break of over 30 years, The Brainiac 5 continue pretty much where they left off with their new album Exploding Universe. Well, sort of - the music is still very much in the spirit of classic Brainiac 5, but they bring the ska influence further to the forefront and introduce some new elements to their music such as jazz and folk. Haphazard! brings to mind The Bevis Frond, combined with angular prog-punk and a few bursts of improvisational jazz sax. Ordinary Man is a bouncy psych-pop number combined with cheery, upbeat jazz aspects and absurdist recitation. The Beauty of it All is less frenetic or genre-hopping than usual, being a gentle, folk-tinged piece with expressive use of flute - although they do bring in some heavier and more psychedelic aspects during the instrumental interlude near the end. Walls are Falling Down combines retro pop with a punky snarl, with sax employed to add aspects of ska and jazz. Stars Plan Ahead is a kind of psychedelic reggae, interspersed with an instrumental section comprising soaring flute and wild, heavy psych-rock guitar. Another excellent album, which contains enough of the energetic psych-punk sounds to please long-term fans whilst showing a continued willingness to venture into new musical territories. Visit www.brainiac5.co.uk
BLACK CHURCH YxY double CDR (Reverb Worship)
The final part in the Black Church reissue series, comprising the material from the YxY cassette (with slightly revised track listing) plus a bonus 3" CDR of early demos. Dakota is beautifully dark dreampop that envelops the listener in clouds of ethereal sound. Near East is original, experimental underground pop pairing hushed vocals with shimmering electronics, another really superb piece. Black Friday is a floaty, swirling instrumental with a dark undertone, exemplifying that seemingly paradoxical 'gothic new age' vibe that is one of the hallmarks of Black Church's approach. All of You is soaring atmospheric pop with ecstatic romantic lyrics. The demo tracks are all instrumental and tend towards ethereal music with an off-kilter edge and an underlying sense of darkness, a sound that fits well alongside Black Church's later material. This is an original and artistic album; while being best classified as dreampop, it breaks away from the standard dreampop formula to add much to the genre that is new and creative. Available at www.reverbworship.com or the Reverb Worship ebay shop.
PSEUDO CODE Remains to be Heard volume 1 & 2 double CD (EE)
Reissue of two Pseudo Code albums originally released on cassette by the Insane label in the 1980s. This edition also contains three bonus tracks. One Day is a long experimental track taking in elements of ambient, abstract jazz, dark electronica, and sound manipulation. White Beast/Black Beast is really great, bringing together avant garde sound sculpturing with beat-driven electronic music. Monarch in my Kingdom sets ranty recitations to a mix of experimental noise, semi-random keyboard playing, and similarly scattershot percussion. Little Big Man is based around rhythmic bursts of noise, creating a fierce, brutal sound but one that is oddly engaging. Slow Disaster combines some almost raga-like guitar work with electronic noise manipulation. Surrounding pairs an unusually delicate and melodic electric piano tune with found sounds. Slaves, recorded in 1982, pre-dates electronic dance music, but shares some of its techniques. Its overall sound is much harsher however, with its incorporation of frantic vocals and improvisational jazz aspects alongside the beats and synths.
Immoral Facts Now is warped abstract synth music combined with beats, sound effects and recited lyrics. Slow Down to the Hypothalamus sets dramatic, fierce rants and hypnotic repeated vocal loops to ambient drones and quirky spacey electronic sounds. The Sweetest Energies is a blend of chaos and order, the former represented by the excitable vocal performance and the abstract and noisy aspects of the music, the latter being illustrated musically by the repetitive, mechanical rhythms. Contre Tous sets pained wailing vocals to a mix of ambient and spacey sounds as well as more repetitive, rhythmic sounds that conjure up an image of mechanised technology and industry. No Explanation is a brilliant rhythmic track combining harsh and noisy aspects with a hypnotic groove.
The weirder tracks here share with Dadaism an apparent desire to shock and dismay via absurdity, and the entire album delights in tearing up the rulebook of musical convention. I'm almost certain that if I'd have heard Pseudo Code about 25 years ago, I would not have understood their music, as I had very little interest in abstract and noisy experimental music back then. Times have changed however, and these days I have acquired a whole new appreciation of these sort of sounds, of which Remains to be Heard volume 1 & 2 is an engaging and well-crafted example. Formed in the late 1970s, with these recordings dating from between 1980 and 1982, Pseudo Code are surely to be counted among the pioneers of experimental electronic music. This album is worth investigating by anyone who can keep an open mind and expand their definition of music to beyond the norm. Available at www.eetapes.be
CADDY The Better End LP (Sugarbush)
Caddy is the solo project of Norwegian musician Tomas Dahl. Best known as a drummer in bands such as Turbonegro and The Yum Yums, he now reveals himself to be a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in his own right. This is a truly superb pop album, achieving a perfect balance of powerpop energy and dreamlike music for lazy summer days. The songs are emotionally engaging and moving, with plenty of jangle, vocal harmonies, and strong melodies, titles like Into the Sun and Chasing Clouds summing up the music's sunny optimism. Whilst there are occasional reminders of other bands - shades of The Beach Boys in The Better End, Teenage Fanclub and Velvet Crush in some of the more powerpoppy tracks, and the janglier songs sometimes bringing to mind Velvet Crush's earlier incarnation as The Springfields, I can't help feeling that making comparisons is ultimately kind of unfair, as Caddy deserves to be regarded as an original, talented and creative band in its own right, not just a distillation of influences. This is an album that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the classic janglepop and powerpop sounds, yet Caddy also takes on board other musical ideas that are unusual for these genres, eg the sax adding a jazzy touch to Wherever You Go, and the atmospheric effects in Chasing Clouds and No Sudden Moves. The LP is vinyl only, with just 300 copies on blue vinyl. The shade of blue reminds me of a clear sky on a warm summer day, absolutely perfect for the music. Another definite winner from Sugarbush Records! Available at www.sugarbushrecords.com
THE GREEN PAJAMAS Death by Misadventure LP (Sugarbush)
I expect most readers will be familiar with The Green Pajamas, who were formed in the 1980s and have built up a loyal fanbase in the psych-pop world ever since. Sugarbush Records have released a limited edition green vinyl version of their album Death by Misadventure, which was released on CD a few years ago and has only ever been available on CD format until now. This album falls very loosely under the psych-pop umbrella, belonging to the genre whilst disregarding its formulas and conventions, and encompassing a vast variety of styles and moods whilst remaining recognisably The Green Pajamas throughout. You Can't Look is noisepop with a dark psychedelic edge. Ring Around the Sun is hazy, dreamlike psych-pop. The Universe is Full of Noise sounds cinematic or theatrical, with a dark, sleazy tone. The Queen's Last Tango begins as what is effectively psychedelic tango, setting vivid, dramatic lyrics to a luxurious, decadent atmosphere. The piece then morphs into a frantic instrumental, blistering with an on-edge urgency. The Queen Bee is Dead has the air of twisted fairground music or dark cabaret. A Piece of a Dream is hard rocking powerpop combined with a soaring, ethereal, psychedelic atmosphere. Carrie is brilliant super-melodic psych-pop, really catchy and well crafted. Christabel is a slice of eerie balladry, as if addressed to a ghost.
This is an album where the lyrics are of equal importance to the music, being poetically composed and painting a vivid picture. The album is also perfectly titled, encapsulating the sombreness inherent in the idea of death, and the impish naughtiness and decadence suggested by the word misadventure, all of which are an integral part of the music. The artwork is also well chosen, reflecting moods and atmospheres found within the songs. The front cover painting is like a modernist interpretation of Pre-Raphaelite art, whilst the back cover's sepia photograph of a ringmaster in clownish face paint echoes the entertainment forms with historic roots that inform much of the music. Pre-Raphaelites and circuses might not immediately have much in common, but you get the connection when you hear the album. The Green Pajamas don't make rose-tinted psych-pop, they make sepia-tinted psych-pop, the songs acting as snapshots of 19th century realism. Only 250 copies of this album were pressed, which I expect will sell out in double quick time, so don't dawdle with those orders! Available at www.sugarbushrecords.com
PEFKIN Black Mass CDR (Reverb Worship)
Pefkin is the solo project of Gayle Brogan, also of Electroscope. I first got in touch with Gayle via her fanzine Boa back in the 90s; she also later set up the mail-order distro Boa Melody Bar. The zine and distro had a good quantity of indiepop content, whilst also covering things like homemade experimental psychedelic electronic music, and Gayle was among the first wave of people in the 1990s to champion psych-folk, well before it took off as a popular underground genre. I remember finding out about bands like The Iditarod via the Boa Melody Bar back in the day. These days Boa is no longer in operation, but Gayle is still very much active in music, both with Electroscope and with Pefkin. Reverb Worship have released this latest Pefkin album, the seven tracks within united by a common theme of corvids. I don't have a track list with this promo version so will refer to the tracks by number.
Track 1 brings together gentle pulsating drones, soft hushed vocals, melodica, and a field recording of cawing crows over distant traffic noise. Track 2 is folky yet spacey and mind-expanding, based around what sounds like a combination of harmonium, hurdy gurdy and clarinet, with the sound of chattering corvids coming in at the end. Track 3 features a lute-like guitar melody with medieval and Middle Eastern tinges, rattling bells, eerily pretty melodica, atmospheric use of sitar, and humming drones creating a sense of foreboding. Track 4 is the album's epic centrepiece, around 15 minutes long, using noise guitars to create doom-laden, psychedelic and atmospheric sounds as backdrop for a soaring, ethereal psych-folk song. I recognise track 5 as the traditional song Twa Corbies; this version sets eerie echoey vocals to stark drones and birdsong, then morphs into an experimental instrumental based around woodwind and zither. Track 6 brings together recited lyrics, atmospheric wordless vocals, minimal drone, slicing metallic noise, and cawing crow sounds. Track 7 is a very lovely, strongly melodic, folky song set to a combination of minimal electronics, sparse guitar and found sounds. If I'm not mistaken, I think this is a Kitchen Cynics cover.
Black Mass is a superb, inventive album of dark experimental psych-folk. This edition is limited to just 50 copies, which are selling fast and not without reason. Only a few copies remain at the time of writing. Hopefully Reverb Worship will reissue the album once the first run has sold out, as they often do with their most popular releases, as this album deserves to be heard by far more than just 50 people! Available at www.reverbworship.com or the Reverb Worship ebay shop.
FRANC CINELLI The Marvel Age CD (SongCircle)
Franc Cinelli is a singer-songwriter originally from Italy and now based in London where he runs his own studio and label under the SongCircle banner. Musically, he appears to draw much of his inspiration from US-style folk, though he adds a certain atmospheric twist to the music, which makes the songs stand out from the crowd. Alchemy is Americana-infused folk-pop, soaring and atmospheric, with unusual and effective use of percussion. Across the Slipstream begins as gentle balladry, giving way to a more upbeat folk-rock sound, its lyrics celebrating nature and painting a vivid scene of buffalo, deserts and big blue sky. Blindsided is a singer-songwriter piece with a sparse piano arrangement. Breakers is a brilliant song part way between 60s US folk-rock and powerpop. Very catchy and uplifting, this is one of the main standout tracks for me. Animals fleshes out what may otherwise have been a fairly straightforward singer-songwriter piece with atmospheric keyboard sounds, vibraphone, and various effects, adding an extra layer of originality. Blue is laid-back folk-rock with a dreamlike, almost psychedelic undertone. Driver is bluesy rock n' roll with a nod to the 1950s. Leave Here Running is raw Americana set to a mix of gentle, ethereal keyboard drones and stark bluesy guitar. Alchemy, Blue and Breakers have been picked out for airplay, and I would agree that those are the more immediate tracks, though the rest of the album is not without merit due to the original spin that Franc Cinelli puts on American-style folk and singer-songwriter music. The album is available as a CD, LP, or download. More info at www.franccinelli.com
VARIOUS Lucky Dip: Blang (2005-2015) CD (Blang)
Compilation celebrating the first ten years of London label Blang, which evolved out of the nights of the same name held at the 12 Bar Club. The styles of music covered here are diverse, though a common theme runs through many of the tracks, namely a tendency towards slightly quirky songs with a sense of humour. Milk Kan make an idiosyncratic mix of indie, rap and ska. Sheepy provide some ultra-melodic, slightly off-centre punk-pop that's a lot of fun. Emily Kapell combines the folky singer-songwriter sound with humour and punk attitude. Filthy Pedro make raw garage rock with laugh-out-loud funny lyrics sending up the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Malcolm Kaksois' track takes acoustic/singer-songwriter, flamenco, electronic beats, and experimental music, and mashes them all up in a blender, topped off with growly lyrics about a sexy dentist, which again epitomise the sort of humorous approach that's central to many Blang artists. Dexter Bentley makes strongly tuneful, observational folk-pop with ukulele. Sergeant Buzfuz is label head Joe Murphy's band, playing folk with attitude. Slate Islands are traditional-style folk meets jazz, their song telling the tale of a homeless alcoholic, its well-crafted lyrics using vivid imagery and at times humour to address a serious issue. Matt Dolphin eschews wackiness and jokiness in favour of serious and sophisticated folk-pop balladry with powerful vocals and effective use of violin. Things get more typically Blang again with Crash and the Disasters' raucous garage punk poking fun at boy-racers who are really just mummy's boys. Oculus III appear with a remix of Sweden by David Cronenberg's Wife, combining atmospheric, hypnotic, psychedelic aspects with electronic dance music and off-centre recited lyrics. Dan Edelstyn and the Orchestra of Cardboard make quirky spacey pop with a lazy dance beat. Thomas Truax provides another of the more serious tracks, an inventive take on the singer-songwriter style with some nice use of orchestration. Despite the artsy idiosyncracies of many of the tracks, this is not 'difficult' music; it's ultimately music for entertainment, which doesn't take itself too seriously. Available as CD or download; find out more at www.blang.co.uk
VARIOUS Arctic Paradise 2016 CD & book (Music Finland)
Latest installment of this ongoing series put out by Music Finland, the Finnish music information service, in order to promote Finland's contemporary folk and world music scene. As always, the album is beautifully presented, the CD packaged within a small hardback book with information on all the bands. FBB, which I believe stands for Folk Big Band, comprises close to 50 members of the Sibelius Academy, who appear here with a lively polska tune from the Finland-Swedish tradition. Piia Kleemola provides an impassioned, frenetic fiddle tune with dark undertones. Sväng play a powerful, driving polska tune entirely on harmonicas of differing sizes, taken from their great album Karja-la which I reviewed a while ago. Puhti combine kantele and harmonium with electronic rhythms to produce a dramatic, inventive sound with a musical and lyrical dark edge; their song here is about Satan dispatching souls to hell, and it comes from an album whose title, Pahan Laulu, translates into English as The Song of Evil. Antti Paalanen makes expressive accordion music based around a driving, repetitive, pulsing rhythm, the beats from the stomp box sounding almost electronic. Tuomas Logrén blends Finnish folk with bluegrass in a manner comparable to Frigg, a band he is also a member of. Kardemimmit are a kantele and female vocal ensemble, whose superb song featured here recalls a more stripped-down, minimalistic version of Värttinä. Long-running fiddle ensemble JPP provide a folk waltz that is both intense and sophisticated.
Whilst all the above artists have gained inspiration from the traditional Finnish folk idiom, putting a personal stamp on the music by combining traditional style folk with unexpected styles of presentation, from harmonicas to big bands, this album also includes artists who bring together a variety of influences from beyond their own shores. Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L's track draws largely from pop and rock but is given a raw folky edge from the use of the Finnish bowed stringed instrument jouhikko. Joonas Widenius Trio blend jazz and flamenco. Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble draw from the traditional music of Benin, with additional influences from funk and jazz. Tango-Orkesteri Unto make tango music with occasional classical tinges. As always, this latest edition of Arctic Paradise demonstrates the vibrancy and diversity of current Finnish folk music. I believe the Arctic Paradise compilations are issued for promotional purposes only and are not for sale, although a streaming version is freely available via www.musicfinland.fi - just follow the links to the Arctic Paradise page.
UMMAGMA Frequency CD (Raphalite)
New mini-album from Canadian-Ukrainian duo Ummagma, who comprise vocalist/lyricist Shauna McLarnon and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Kretov. The album brings together a 5 track EP with 3 remixes by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Malcolm Holmes of OMD, and Lights that Change. The name Ummagma is presumably a play on Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, though Pink Floyd are not the most obvious influence on their sound, which is effectively an original update of dreampop that is equally informed by electronic music. Orion is a spacey, floaty mix of dreampop and electronica with psych and prog undercurrents. Lama is beautiful ethereal dreampop with gentle pulsing electronics, guitar work that demonstrates how there can sometimes be a fine line between psych and prog, and lashings of atmospheric shoegaze-style noise. Winter Tale is a perfect pairing of breathy, angelic vocals and glacial instrumentation. Galacticon places a folk-tinged melody into an artistic ambient setting. Alexander Kretov takes over the vocal duties in Ocean Girl, a gentle and minimalistic rendering of dreampop ornamented by touches of jazzy accordion. Three remixes of Lama follow, with Robin Guthrie bringing the dreampop aspect to the forefront to provide a slice of textured, ethereal beauty. Malcolm Holmes reinvents the track as dancey electropop with a creative, experimental edge. Lights that Change's version combines airy ambient music with 80s style synths and post-punk guitar. Each of the artists does something very different with the song, bringing much variety to the album. Ummagma are an inventive outfit putting their own spin on dreampop, and are well worth investigating by anyone that enjoys this genre. More information at www.ummagma.com
KITCHEN CYNICS Common Blue CDR (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
Alan Davidson's prolific, long-running project, the Kitchen Cynics, returns with this new album of 15 tracks packaged within Alan's trademark collage art, in which images of nature and of technology are juxtaposed in surrealist fashion. The Common Blue of the title is the variety of butterfly, whose image has pride of place on the cover among the cogs, wheels, horns, birds, and long-deceased Victorians. Clever Sky is dark-edged psych-folk, full of evocative lyrical imagery such as "the winter moondust on her thighs". Common Blue is a creatively composed soundscape, in which various musical themes flow in and out of each other in the manner of a dream, Indian-sounding melodies appearing alongside retro-futuristic oscillations and pastoral folky and neoclassical touches. Wee Black Cloud is chiming folk-pop with a vivid lyrical wit. Lonely Moon is a bluesy song ornamented with ethereal psychedelic instrumentation.
The album also features a number of cover versions and collaborations. Leaves, co-written with PG Six, is superb traditional-influenced folk-rock, incorporating a recorder solo that lends a medieval feel to the piece. Foul Friday is based on a song by Bob Cooney, whose original performance is sampled here and incorporated into a surreal, feverish soundscape in which Cooney's voice collides with nightmarish abstract music and discordant jangling bells. Quietly, David, co-written with Seas, Starry, is gentle psych-folk, its "let's drift far away" lyric a perfect match for the laid-back arrangement. Take a Heart, originally by The Sorrows, sets a rock 'n' roll or 60s R'n'B type melody to swirling spacey vintage synths and psychedelic rock guitar.
The Kitchen Cynics have made over 100 albums but show no signs of running out of new, creative ideas. The music here combines historically-informed modern folk songs with artistic and well-crafted experimental attributes. Ordering information can be obtained by emailing Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org
MATRICARIANS Rainthinking CDR (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
Matricarians is another of Alan Davidson's projects, in which the experimental and psychedelic aspects familiar from the Kitchen Cynics are brought to the forefront and magnified, while not ignoring the folk aspects. The album includes a mixture of new compositions, mainly instrumentals, and vocal tracks drawn from traditional folk songs, some of which are sung by Alan and others by a female vocalist who is not named on the cover. In fact no band members are named on the cover, so I'm unsure if other musicians are also involved with this album. There's a beautifully atmospheric version of the traditional song Betsy Bell and Mary Gray, featuring vintage electronics and flowing psychedelic guitars swathed in ethereal effects. In Rainthinking, psychedelic soundscaping meets folk-inspired classical piano. Naked Under a Siren Suit is a swirly psychedelic instrumental piece balancing hypnotic repetition and strong melody. Be Very Still is trad folk viewed through a DIY bedroom pop lens, a combination that really works. Hairy Caterpillars! is a kind of musical op art with its gyrating patterns of sound. The traditional song Oats and Beans and Barley is accompanied by the sounds of an ecstatic fertility ritual with dancing, clapping and chanting. Outside In is the only one of the non-traditional pieces to feature vocals. The inspiration for this song clearly comes from traditional material, making it fit in seamlessly alongside the pieces whose original authors' identities have been lost to history. Melancholic and touching, the piece features some nice use of plaintive woodwind. An important contribution to the experimental psych-folk field, the album is available from Alan at the Kitchen Cynics email address above.
THE DEAD ASTRONAUT s/t LP (Tonefloat)
The Dead Astronaut is the latest project of James McKeown, founder member of Hi Fiction Science, who is also known for the solo material released under his own name. He has also since admitted to being the person responsible for the Frugal Puritan album, which at the time of its release was mischievously presented as being a lost Christian psych-folk album from the 1970s! The Dead Astronaut is centred around melancholic songs inspired by deeply personal events from James' own life. He is joined here by a selection of Bristol musicians including cellist Charlotte Nicholls, who has performed with various well known Bristol outfits including Portishead, Pete Judge of Get the Blessing, Paul Bradley (Me, Organelles, Three Cane Whale), Duncan Gammon of Schnauser, and James' bandmates from Hi Fiction Science, Aidan Searle and Jeff Green.
North Star Loop is dark experimental soundscaping made up of drones, samples, and hints of avant garde jazz. Whilst untypical of the rest of the album, its dark mood sets the scene for the tracks that follow. Concrete Town is spare songwriting centred around acoustic guitar, cello and atmospheric effects, shot through with a sense of despair. Ricochet is essentially a kind of intelligent and sophisticated indie rock incorporating cello, funky wah-wah, and washes of ethereal noise, the lyrics dripping with painful honesty and regret. Black Sky's lyrics explore the concept of music as an only source of hope, the arrangement bringing in orchestration, electronically produced choral backing vocals, and later on an intricate wall of sound combining aspects of funk-tinged psych-rock and electronic dance rhythms. Skyboat is an acoustic guitar-led piece augmented by plaintive trumpet and cello, coming across like a more sophisticated and inventive take on melancholic indiepop. Skyboat Reprise is an instrumental piece drawing together aspects of prog, post-rock, experimental jazz, heavy psych, and spacerock into a coherent whole, and characterised by a sense of bleakness to match the song-based tracks.
The songs here are cathartic outpourings with a level of genuine emotion that will deeply affect any listener with a heart. These are well-crafted pieces with high quality musicianship, giving an original and artistic twist to the singer-songwriter genre, and stripping rock of its arrogant swagger. Whilst not an indiepop album (aside from hints of this style from time to time, in particular on Skyboat), it shares the raw emotion and heart-on-sleeve honesty of that genre's more melancholic examples, and as such, those who appreciate melancholic indiepop may also identify with this album for its emotional quality. The album is available on vinyl or digital download from tonefloatrecords.blogspot.nl; band info at www.facebook.com/thedeadastronaut
MAGIC MOMENTS AT TWILIGHT TIME Flashbax Ω Ultimate CDR (Klappstuhl)
Anyone who's been acquainted with the underground tapes scene for any length of time will surely be aware of Magic Moments at Twilight Time, the band founded by Mick Magic, who also headed up one of the world's largest tape labels, Music and Elsewhere. MMATT released a number of cassettes and a CD on M&E and also promoted their music via other tape labels with their Flashbax series. This new MMATT retrospective was compiled as an ultimate edition of Flashbax, covering all the band's different line-ups during their cassette-only era between 1987 and 1992. The album is released on one of those faux-vinyl black CDRs and features a 4 page booklet with background information on the tracks' original release history.
MMATT were generally classed as a spacerock band, though their inventive approach also took on board elements of pop, punk, post-punk, rock 'n' roll, experimental music, and beyond.
State of the Art is a kind of post-punk spacerock, in which whooshing analogue synths collide with forceful chugging guitars. Story X brings together elements of early 80s synthpop, psychedelia and experimental music. Pandora is classy electropop with an experimental edge and lashings of mindbending electronic effects. In Traveller II, glitchy DIY Casio-pop meets swirling experimental psychedelic electronica, topped off with sci-fi lyrics that totally suit the retro-futuristic nature of the music. Psychojolting is punk rock 'n' roll with the addition of whirring retro synths. Get Into the Dream Cream is catchy punky noisepop with explicit erotic lyrics - definitely not for prudes! Bewitched combines gothic spacerock with an avant garde pop sensibility. Spirit is dark-edged underground pop with a strong flamenco influence.
Whether their songs are about aliens, sex or witchcraft, MMATT sound like they're having tons of fun, making the album just as much fun to listen to. A download edition with 6 extra tracks and a 24 page PDF booklet is available at Bandcamp and the CD version at Discogs. The CD edition also includes a download code to obtain the bonus material. Further information on MMATT and M&E at www.mickmagic.net
FUCHSIA s/t CD (Esoteric)
I'd heard a lot about this album over the years, its status as a classic of progressive/psychedelic folk-rock, and its influence on the brilliant Swedish band Me and My Kites, who took their name from a Fuchsia song and since collaborated with Fuchsia songwriter Tony Durant. All this had made me keen to hear the album for some time. Originally released in 1971, the album has been reissued in remastered form accompanied by extensive informative sleeve notes. Fuchsia combine the off-centre intricacy of prog rock with folk-inspired melodies, sophisticated classical-influenced orchestration, and the dreamlike and at times whimsical qualities of psychedelia, to create really lovely, highly creative, strongly tuneful, uplifting music. It's easy to see why this album is regarded as a classic, and I'm delighted to have finally got to hear it thanks to this very welcome reissue. Very much recommended! Esoteric is an offshoot of Cherry Red - visit www.cherryred.co.uk for more info.
KiDD Hotchpotch (The Barne Society)
KiDD is the solo project of Stu Kidd, also of Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab, The Wellgreen, and BMX Bandits. This new 13-song album was released on cassette and download by Glasgow DIY label The Barne Society; the cassette was ultra-limited and sold out immediately, but digital downloads are still available from the label's Bandcamp page. The album's title gives hints as to its eclectic approach, though recurring themes hold the different musical strands together, creating a sense of cohesiveness. Alfie places a Beach Boys-esque melody and vocal harmonies into a DIY pop setting. 4 Leaf Clover is country-rock with a bedroom pop twist. Breathe in the Country is delightfully off-centre psych-pop with folk and country tinges and luxurious vocal harmonies. Turquoise is acoustic-based folk-pop, melancholic in tone, with psychedelic electronic effects adding a dreamlike touch; a very lovely piece. Royal Jelly is an uplifting instrumental based around retro synths. What Do You Think is gentle harmony-pop, lyrically and melodically moving, with strummed acoustic guitar, swirling vintage keyboard, and I think I also hear melodica and accordion. This is a brilliant homemade album with strong tunes and a diverse musical approach - great to know there will also be more from KiDD coming soon in the spring! More info at www.thebarnesociety.com for more info.
ERIC PETER SCHWARTZ Casual Ghosts CD (Crapping Badger)
Eric Peter Schwartz is an artist who first came to my attention via ZyNg Tapes' recent On New Horizons vol 2 compilation. Straddling the Americana, contemporary folk, and singer-songwriter genres, his album Casual Ghosts is full of well-crafted songs with plenty of musical variety. When Will The Sun is sparse Americana accompanied solely by one-string canjo, providing a distinctive and enjoyable sound. Icebergs adds ambient synths, forming an atmospheric backdrop to this melancholic and thoughtful song that transcends genre. With a chorus that puts me in mind of Brighter, the song may appeal just as much to fans of melancholic indiepop as it would to those into singer-songwriter music. Starlight begins with a plaintive instrumental section featuring Native American flute, giving way to an introspective song based around acoustic guitar and cello. Elsewhere on the album there's the laid-back US folk-rock of Bill Bixby, the jaunty bossa nova-tinged Hot Liquor, and the effective combination of vivid poetry and evocative soundscaping that is Moon-Dazzle Soup. A diverse and creative collection of songs, available at https://epschwartz.bandcamp.com
PINEAPPLE Trials CD (self-released)
A few months ago I previewed some of the forthcoming tracks from Pineapple's debut album; the album is now completed and has been self-released by the band, distributed by www.cdbaby.com. They are also open to offers of a release from other more established labels, whether on vinyl or CD. Punk makes up a big part of Pineapple's sound, though they avoid the 'punk by numbers' approach through an incorporation of other eclectic musical elements. Trials sets recited lyrics to a hypnotic chug. Fugitive is fast and furious punk. Snakes and Ladders is a melodic punk anthem for Pineapple's local football team Plymouth Argyle. Changes is a punked-up version of an older song from the 1990s by vocalist Duncan Pope's other band The Conspiracy. Hubris is angular punk with hints of ska. PTS/Ace is frantic punk interspersed with near-psychedelic rock aspects, an angular, choppy-changey song structure keeping the listener on their toes. Zero Factor is an amusing attack on the X-Factor and other 'instant celebrity' shows, mocking the contestants for their lack of brains and talent. Spirit is an unusual mix of fierce, noisy punk with soothing, atmospheric synth drones and softer melodic sections. Whilst I'm not usually much of a punk fan, Pineapple are a punk band I actually enjoy listening to. In avoiding a formulaic punk style in favour of a more original and inventive approach, this makes Pineapple stand out from the punk crowd.
Find out more at www.pineapple.band
THE HONEY POT Inside the Whale (Mega Dodo)
Brilliant new album from The Honey Pot, bringing together aspects of psych-rock, folk, retro pop and more, and combining these influences with a strong sense of creativity to produce an exciting sound. The Outskirts of Your Mind combines San Francisco psych-folk-rock with a certain pop sensibility. Inside the Whale is a superb folk-rock track incorporating both meandering and intense psychedelic accompaniment and a sunshine pop touch courtesy of the soaring flute. Starfish Smiles is a floaty, dreamlike piece with atmospheric effects, the sound of gentle waves, and lyrics based around the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. Almost Exactly Beautiful takes a 60s-ish pop song with whimsical lyrics about a character called Melinda Make-Believe, and wraps it up in an ethereal cloak as dreamlike as its lyrical content. Walking on Eggshells is sophisticated balladry ornamented by impressive baroque harpsichord and an inventive melange of experimental, progressive and psychedelic elements. The album is available in three formats: 180 gram vinyl LP limited to 300 copies, with 150 of these signed and numbered by the band; CD with 2 extra tracks; and 3 CD set limited to 150 copies which features Inside the Whale along with Live in London, the new single Lisa Dreams with additional tracks not included on the 7", and an interview with founder members Icarus Peel and Crystal Jacqueline, packaged in a numbered tin also containing a fortune telling fish! All editions are available from www.mega-dodo.co.uk as of 26th February 2016.
GOTHIC CHICKEN Lift the Cobweb Veil LP (Pink Hedgehog)
Gothic Chicken is a Dorset psych-pop outfit featuring members of Schnauser, The Lucky Bishops, and Cheese. Almost ten years in the making, their debut album is now available on Pink Hedgehog Records. Overthrow blends bright, super-melodic pop with quirky proggy convolutions. And As For Me is retro pop with Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies contrasting with a dark lyrical wit. The Mousetrap blends psych-pop with the wacky twists and turns of the more eccentric kind of prog. Pitta Bread Man, when taken at face value, appears to be an entertainingly idiosyncratic psych-pop ode to fast food, but has a deeper message when you look past the surface. It's All Up To You, Saint Jude is psych-pop with a sophisticated, dreamlike air. This is an album in which zaniness, irreverence and depth coexist, along with plenty of strong melodies. There's a retro quality to the music yet it manages to simultaneously sound original and creative. Gothic Chicken's approach has much in common with the other bands their members were/are involved in. If you are a fan of The Lucky Bishops, Schnauser or Cheese, you cannot miss this album! Available on vinyl or download from www.pinkhedgehog.com
WILSON Old School, New Rules CD (Pink Hedgehog)
Wilson is a Dorset four-piece centred around singer-songwriter Steve Wilson (formerly of The Little Green Men, and also known for his solo work), and also featuring Simon Felton (of powerpop band Garfields Birthday, and Pink Hedgehog label founder), Timmy Wheeler, and Chris Rickard. The album also includes guest appearances from other musicians including Robbie McIntosh, formerly of The Pretenders, and comes with a wittily produced school-themed booklet. Long Road is smooth pop with country rock undertones and a jazzy sax solo. Pretty Girl in a Small Town is somewhere between powerpop and soft rock, with effective use of harmony vocals. Silver Lining is laid-back country with a drum rhythm that rattles along like a train. The song has a melancholic mood though a ray of hope shines through in the lyrics. Waiting for Your Turn is light and airy pop with a bossa nova touch. The Moment You Walked By is smooth 1970s-ish pop balladry with shades of country. You're the One reminds me of a cross between late 60s country rock and ELO. Hazard on the Road combines bluesy rock 'n' roll with a harmony-pop sensibility and even brings in an atmospheric keyboard section and chilled-out psych-rock aspects, setting it apart from standard rock 'n' roll. The mixture of retro influences and original innovations in this track fits well with the album's title. The album ends with Peace of Mind, a sparse yet sophisticated piano ballad. The music here has a mature sound and is rather more polished than I'm used to, having the feel of vintage mainstream music. Whilst different from my usual listening choices, the music is well crafted and there are strong tunes aplenty, making the album an enjoyable listen. Available at www.pinkhedgehog.com
NAGMET Water is Conscience CDR (Stone Premonitions)
NagMet is a collaborative project between Daniel J Harris from the USA and Nico Jongenelen of the Netherlands. There are 24 tracks here, mostly characterised by experimental poetry set to similarly experimental music, though the duo explore many different musical territories in the process. The Thought is funky poppy rock meets experimental hometaper weirdness. But... He's Naked features recited lyrics over throaty chanting. Elbows On High is a multi-part piece taking in neoclassical cello, spooky surreal poetry backed by experimental sound effects, and rhythmic yet dreamlike electronic music. Time & Less has none of the eccentricity and overt experimentation of many of the other tracks, instead being a sophisticated neoclassical instrumental based around piano and strings. Ha-PP-PP-PP-PP-PP-y combines funk, prog and electronic beats with that sense of experimentation that characterises this band's work. The Swing sets poetry to heavy riffage and dark sound effects. My Favorite Blanket does not conjure up the feeling of snuggly comfort that its title suggests, but instead comes across like a slicing nightmarish soundtrack to an imaginary horror movie. Bizarre, unsettling music sits alongside moments of understated beauty, as well as music that puts an experimental spin on pop, rock or funk, the whole thing being given a sense of cohesiveness by Daniel J Harris' distinctive poetic style and the artistic experimental air that pervades the entire album. Available at www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com, with further info at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions
THE SPECTACLES Report from the Border CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Following their On Closer Inspection mini-album (reviewed earlier this issue), The Spectacles are back with a full-length album which includes all seven tracks from On Closer Inspection along with nine new songs that continue to demonstrate this band's eclectic approach to folk and acoustic music. Ray Town draws from blues and raw early country, and has a strong catchy tune. Big Screen is melancholic yet hopeful folk-pop with undercurrents of Americana. Beck & Tarn Boys is gutsy folk-rock that wouldn't sound out of place on one of Steeleye Span's more recent albums. Last Ride is minimalistic folk-pop with a certain wistful melancholy that may even appeal to the old-school indiepop crowd. The highlights of the previously released tracks are also worth mentioning again. Four Hands is an exceptional medieval-inspired piece that puts me in mind of Maddy Prior and June Tabor's Silly Sisters project. There's a great version of the traditional folk song Sally Gardens, performed unaccompanied with triple vocal harmonies, and a traditional-style song called Liddell's Wood, with lyrics rooted within the history of the band's local area, and featuring some jaunty concertina that nods in the direction of Morris dance music. Folk music is a broad area and The Spectacles have much of its territory covered with this album - British and American, traditional and contemporary. Well worth investigating for anyone with open minded tastes in folk. Available at www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com, with further info at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions
17 PYGMIES Isabel II: Abaddon Rising CD (Trakwerx)
As always with 17 Pygmies' albums on Trakwerx, this is a complete work of art. The CD is packaged in a hand-assembled multi-part sleeve made of luxury metallic paper with foil-stamped printing, and comes with a 27 page book, also hand assembled and printed on textured paper, with part two of Jackson Del Rey's story The Book of Isabel, which is best described as a kind of philosophical sci-fi, and which follows on from the stories behind the band's earlier Celestina album series. Isabel XII combines sophisticated pop with aspects of gentle classical music and dreamlike psychedelic whimsy. Isabel XIII is an instrumental piece bringing together electronic rhythms with undercurrents of world music and sophisticated classical orchestration. Isabel XIV is gentle, ethereal psych-folk. Isabel XVII features folky accordion and a violin melody that bridges the gap between folk and baroque, along with airy wordless vocals. Isabel XVIII is psych-folk-rock with the effective addition of classical strings. Isabel XXI seamlessly combines prog, Middle Eastern music, electronic dance rhythms, pop and classical in a manner that is original and artistic. 17 Pygmies' albums never disappoint. They're an exceptional band with a creative, genre-transcending approach, making well-crafted, distinctive music that's well worth checking out. Visit www.trakwerx.com/label.htm
SIR IAN OF CHURCHWARD The Legendary Ten Songs of... CD (Richard the Third Records)
Solo album from Ian Churchward of The Legendary Ten Seconds. As with The Legendary Ten Seconds' recent albums, this new album comprises songs about the life and death of Richard the Third. It was released in December as a Ricardian Christmas special; sadly I was unable to review it in time for Christmas as I had a backlog of reviews to work through, but I figured it was still OK to give the album a mention as most of its tracks are not specifically Christmas songs and can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The music here is stylistically similar to The Legendary Ten Seconds, but with more of an acoustic emphasis. It's not an entirely acoustic album though; some tracks introduce electric guitar solos and Gold Angels is centred around chiming jangly electric guitar, as well as keyboards played by Ian's bandmate in The Legendary Ten Seconds, Lord Zarquon. The songs here fall into the categories of medieval influenced folk (eg Medieval Free Company) or acoustic-based folk-rock (eg Richard Liveth Yet), with some degree of overlap between the genres. Ian and friends inject some humour into the song Richard the Three, with its lighthearted theatrical spoken word sections, and lyrics such as the king's bed being "especially made, there was no IKEA". The music Ian Churchward is making today is lightyears away from his work with indiepop band The Morrisons, but is worth investigating if you're a fan of vintage folk-rock such as Fairport Convention or Ashley Hutchings. Find out more at www.thelegendary10seconds.co.uk
THE CONSPIRACY Predator CD (self-released)
Almost nine years in the making, The Conspiracy's new album is finally available. They have decided to self-release the album for now, though are open to offers from more established labels to release it on vinyl or CD. The Conspiracy are known on the underground scene for their eclectic musical style that knows no boundaries. Bric A Brac combines heavy psychedelic undercurrents with a punky snarl. Locust Rain mixes intense, urgent punk rock with hypnotic pulsing electronics. Openings is a hard-edged psych number, great stuff. The Book and the Spine is bouncy retro pop with psych-rock aspects and esoteric, philosophical lyrics. Crow II is dark, ethereal psych-folk-pop with effective use of atmospheric sound effects. 20-Something is an original combination of 80s-style synthpop and expansive, atmospheric psych-rock, with a strong, memorable tune. Whilst many of the tracks fall in some way under the psychedelic umbrella, detours are taken via indie pop with rock undertones (The Pulpit), electronic music with recited lyrics akin to a guided meditation (BPD), sophisticated vintage-inspired pop with a touch of American folk-rock (Salle d'Attente), vigorous electronic dance music combined with metal, punk and experimental aspects (Predator), and harsh and angular punk (Tourettes). The Conspiracy are a vastly underrated band - hopefully this album will expose their creative and open minded musical approach to the wider audience they deserve. Contact www.facebook.com/wearetheconspiracy
PIIA KLEEMOLA Pirun ja Papin Polska CD (Seita)
Piia Kleemola's new solo album Pirun ja Papin Polska (The Polska of the Devil and the Parson) comprises her own interpretations of folk tunes drawn largely from southern Ostrobothnian archives. Most tracks are performed by Piia alone, on fiddle, octave fiddle and kantele, while Anne-Mari Kivimäki joins her on two tracks playing 5-row accordion. Whilst the music itself has deep roots in history, the CD is packaged within visually pleasing modernist abstract artwork, as if to say, quite rightly, that traditional folk still has relevance for the modern age. Björkö-Polska demonstrates the overlap between folk and baroque. Rukkimestarin Polska is a fleet-footed dance tune with interwoven fiddle and accordion. Autuas Päivä is a slow, mournful and sparse tune derived from a folk hymn. Kantele is introduced later on, its bell-like tones adding extra atmosphere to the track. Pirun ja Papin Polska has a frenetic, feverish sense of urgency. Very much recommended - find out more at www.piiakleemola.com and www.seitamusic.com
THE OWL SERVICE His Pride. No Spear. No Friend. CD (Horn)
The Owl Service's latest album represents a change of direction for the band. Their music still gains some inspiration from the 1970s folk revival, ranging from the more traditional artists like Tim Hart and Maddy Prior, Shirley and Dolly Collins, and Martin Carthy, to underground bands Midwinter and Caedmon, and the Wicker Man soundtrack, yet instead of making songs that sound like a genuine product of the 70s electric folk movement, they now combine traditional folk ballads with a harder-edged alternative sound. There are elements of post-rock, experimental and psychedelic music to be heard here, along with evidence of band founder Steven Collins' love of the US post-hardcore scene. The songs' arrangements are very far from standard folk, or even folk-rock in the way that term is usually understood. Instead, The Owl Service give us atmospheric drones and effects, heavy drums, forceful guitar, and angular, changeable arrangement structures. Their version of Midwinter's The Skater adds some darkly psychedelic moments into the mix, whilst the Child ballad Geordie is accompanied by brooding, swirling organ that lends an experimental atmosphere to the piece. I can't think of any other band who have approached folk from an angle quite like The Owl Service have done with His Pride. No Spear. No Friend. This is a truly inspired album, and an absolute must for anyone who can keep an open mind about folk music. Find out more at www.thepatternbeneaththeplough.co.uk
MUD PIE SUN New Swing Mood Things/Two at Noon CD (Revolving Bell)
New remastered reissue of this two-in-one album originally released on cassette by Acid Tapes in 1992 under the band name Mud Pie. In keeping with the band's roots in the homemade tapes scene, this CD reissue comes with hand-stamped packaging bursting with as much DIY spirit as the music itself. New Swing Mood Thing is raw strummy lo-fi pop. Any Minute combines off-kilter homemade pop with dark and raw psych-rock. Month of Sundays is melancholic indiepop with the occasional nod towards folk and psych, and that jangly guitar sound that always brings a smile to my face. Aztec Head is lopsided lo-fi experimental psych weirdness. 5 Days After is psych-folk-rock, minimally arranged with acoustic and electric guitars only, and shot through with a bleak, pained atmosphere. Where You Belong is a fuzzed-out, drawn-out, sprawling thing, maybe what shoegaze bands would sound like if they had a more homemade, more idiosyncratic approach. Just Like You is lo-fi pop pairing melody with a certain dissonance and an off-centre atmosphere. They also include a delightfully raw and rattly version of the Silly Pillows' Sending Everything, and a version of the Jacobites' Hurt Me More, which gives country-rock a ramshackle DIY edge. A brilliant homemade album - hopefully Mud Pie Sun will also reissue their other early cassettes as this stuff really needs to be heard! Find out more at www.mudpiesun.com
SONS OF THE VOID s/t LP (Sunrise Ocean Bender)
Debut album from Switzerland-based duo Sons of the Void, comprising David Max (formerly of Tadpoles and Psychic TV) and Nick Nobody. This is a truly exceptional set of songs, bursting with original, creative ideas, and transforming melodic pop into a mind expanding experience. Leichenblume is janglepop ornamented by offbeat wobbly psychedelic sound effects. Don't Forget to Pray offsets 60s jangle and US folk-rock elements with dreamlike experimental psychedelic aspects. Kolliderscope is bright melodic pop combined with futuristic electronics and woozy atmospheric effects. Hope I Don't Miss is laid-back folky psych-pop effectively merged with intense noise-rock, found sounds and experimental effects. The Things We Wish could almost be an 80s indiepop song with its combination of jangly guitar, retro organ and innocent, optimistic lyrics. A Kick Like That juxtaposes soaring sunshine pop-esque flute with crunching noise guitar within a prime slice of laid-back psych-rock. Little Children is a very moving, uplifting piece in which 60s-ish folk-rock meets swirling retro-futurism. All the things I most love about music are expertly brought together in this one album. And if the superb music wasn't enough, the entire package is a complete work of art, the visual presentation showing considerable attention to detail. The artwork has the feel of a classic, iconic album cover, there's a lyric and info sheet printed in colour on heavyweight satin-finish paper, and the record is pressed on bright cyan vinyl. Limited to just 250 copies; available at www.sunriseoceanbender.com
JUJU s/t LP (Sunrise Ocean Bender)
JuJu is the latest project of multi-instrumentalist Gioele Valenti (Lay Llamas, Herself). Taking its name from West African magical ritual paraphernalia, JuJu makes a mindbending combination of intense psych-rock and shoegaze/dreampop-style atmospheric noise, with a healthy dose of free-thinking experimental attitude. Samael is raw and dirty psychedelic blues rock with hypnotic repetitive rhythms and a dash of tribal-style percussion. We Spit On Yer Grave disguises its nihilistic lyrics within a hazy dreampop atmosphere. Stars and Sea starts off with a laid-back, mesmeric sound best described as ambient psych-rock, before turning up the volume to introduce an intense shoegaze-esque wall of noise and a relentless hypnotic bassline. Dance with the Fish is an instrumental interlude with neoclassical and film soundtrack tinges, wrapped up in a dreamlike haze. Lost straddles the boundaries between heavy psych-rock, neoclassical, electronica, experimental and world music, the combination of styles coming together completely naturally. The trance-inducing repetitive rhythmic quality that pervades much of JuJu's music is here in full force on this track. Another winner from Sunrise Ocean Bender, which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite labels. The album is pressed on vivid orange vinyl and packaged with the usual high standard of graphic design work expected of Sunrise Ocean Bender. It will be released 1st April 2016, limited to just 250 copies. Visit www.sunriseoceanbender.com
TIM CHAPLIN Boy to Make Me Worry double LP (Bleeding Gold)
Compilation of archival material from Tim Chaplin, with demos, outtakes, alternative mixes, and other lost unreleased tracks spanning the years 1998-2010. The album is beautifully presented, the LPs pressed on silver and gold vinyl and packaged within a gatefold sleeve with lyrics and great collage art by Jesse Treece, showing a landscape with mountains made from blankets and pieces of velvet.
No Wonder is homemade indiepop pairing strummy acoustic guitar with retro electronics. So She Says juxtaposes melodic pop with searing noise guitar. Shot Down is an effective blend of DIY pop and experimental sound manipulation. Wrong has what must be one of the most brutal noise onslaughts you'll ever hear accompanying a pop song. Fierce guitar noise, electronic beats, psychedelic experimentation and tuneful homemade pop all come together in The Last Thing. Stay Away takes a powerpop song to rival those of Teenage Fanclub or Velvet Crush and sets it to an apparently contradictory yet effective mix of raucous noise and gentle tinkling glockenspiel. Fade Away is wistful indiepop given an experimental edge with the addition of found sounds. A Picture of You adds a folky touch with the use of accordion and recorder alongside the lo-fi noisepop components. Hazel Eyes is gentle acoustic indiepop balladry. Damage has a touch of US folk-rock about it, an influence that carries over to the next track 11:17, though here Tim combines the folk-tinged melody with his love of ferocious distorted guitars.
Despite the fact that the songs here were recorded over a 12 year period, they have been carefully selected for this compilation so that it holds together as a complete album. Full of free-thinking ideas and DIY charm, the album is an ideal introduction to the work of this talented home recording artist. As well as the 20-song vinyl version, there is also a download edition with 39 tracks. Available from bleedinggoldrecords.bandcamp.com
SIBELIUS ACADEMY FOLK BIG BAND FBB CD (Siba)
The Sibelius Academy Folk Big Band includes close to fifty musicians, including Petri Prauda, Esko Järvelä, Alina Järvelä, and Tero Hyväluoma of Frigg, and many others. They sum up their approach in the sleeve notes: "Despite our careful research of historical singing and playing styles, we see folk music as something that lives strongly in the present. It doesn't belong in museums; we live with it every single day". The album comes with lively, modern sleeve art that is much in keeping with their musical attitude. Omatekopolkka/Vili-Vainaan polkka/Reepakan polkka is an energetic polka suite featuring jazz clarinet and yodelling alongside accordion, kantele and fiddles. Laulu Suomessa is a poem by Jaakko Juteini set to music by Petri Prauda. The piece features choral vocals and an arrangement both stately and dreamlike. Haliasoitto is an intense, celebratory, even a touch otherworldly, adaptation of a birch bark horn tune from the repertoire of Matti Pukonen of Ropsu, Ingria. Maria Pohjan Neiti adapts a scene from Finland's national epic, the Kalevala, into an artistically arranged two part piece. Paimendisko (Shepherd Disco) takes traditional shepherd tunes and incorporates them into a disco-esque setting, with a lush string arrangement and relentless groove, an approach that is highly original if not completely unique. The album ends with Promootiokantaati, a multi-part piece composed by JPP's Timo Alakotila, that takes in beautifully atmospheric folk/classical composition alongside lively folk fiddling. With a refreshingly boundary-free, multi-genre approach, FBB shows how folk music can be historically informed yet original, inventive, and relevant for today. An absolutely superb album! Find out more at www.siba.fi/sibarecords and www.facebook.com/sibafolkbigband
ANTON BARBEAU Magic Act CD (Mystery Lawn)
Anton Barbeau is an artist whose work spans boundaries: he's an underground hero with roots in the homemade music scene, yet he has collaborated with countless big name musicians and even shared a bill with the reformed Bay City Rollers! His music is intelligent and well crafted yet shot through with an eccentric sense of humour, showing that serious music needn't take itself too seriously. The prolific multi-instrumentalist songwriter is joined on his latest album by a wide selection of guest musicians, including amongst them such well respected established names as Colin Moulding (XTC), Martin Gordon (Sparks), Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor (of Robyn Hitchcock's bands The Soft Boys and The Egyptians, and also of Anton Barbeau's band Three Minute Tease). The album also gives space to underground musicians, including amongst others Karla Kane of The Corner Laughers.
High Noon is psych-tinged powerpop, the lyrics cooking up a surreal fantasy of the CIA killing the Virgin Mary by sending her on a suicide mission to the moon! Flying Spider is off-kilter pop with bizarre psychedelic sound effects. Sit Your Leggy Down is an absurdist take on 60s US folk-rock. Black Lemon Sauce is an effective combination of powerpop, vintage synthpop and psychedelia. Heavy Psychedelic Toilet is grin-inducingly catchy psych-pop with a tune that's permanently burrowed itself into my brain over the last few days, and lyrics telling a story as bizarre as the song's title. Hop Skip A Jump is mellow 60s-tinged indie pop incorporating jazzy bass. The songs are cohesively held together by Anton's trademark surreal lyrical wit and an abundance of strong catchy pop tunes. An absolutely brilliant album - find out more at www.antonbarbeau.com and www.mysterylawn.com
FIREFAY The King Must Die CD (self-released)
Following their excellent Anointed Queen album with Alison O'Donnell on the now defunct Stone Tape label, Firefay are back with a new album of boundary-busting music that defies easy categorisation. The macabre cover art suggests a sort of gothic folk concoction, yet there is far more going on in Firefay's music than initial visual impressions would suggest. Winter Son is an original interpretation of folk-rock bringing together bleak, sorrowful lyrics with Middle Eastern elements, metal-ish noise guitar, and angular proggy convolutions. French chanson meets dark-edged experimental folk in Ti Punch. La Dame aux Chats has more of that sophisticated French balladry, combined this time with jazz and funk aspects rarely heard in the underground folk scene. House on the Strand is a macabre slice of underground folk, its melody and ghostly lyrics recalling Stone Breath, though the arrangement style is entirely Firefay's own, with mindbending pulsating and whirring electronics and sombre piano providing the backdrop. My Lady Carey's Dompe is a feverish reinterpretation of a Renaissance-era dance tune, merged with melodies and rhythms suggestive of South American jazz and of reggae, as well as a flowing guitar style that somehow simultaneously calls to mind jazz, blues and classical music. The gruesome traditional murder ballad Long Lankin is reinvented as a cinematic epic with jazz and dub undercurrents. The King Must Die sets morbid lyrical imagery to a highly creative form of psychedelic folk-rock. The Djinn's Tale is an avant garde composition taking in meandering psychedelic guitar, Middle Eastern percussion, atmospheric electronic sounds, recited lyrics and wordless backing vocals. An excellent album that travels far beyond its original basis in folk music to create some of the most inventive sounds I've heard in recent times. Available at firefay.bandcamp.com
KEVIN HEARD Cydonia CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Kevin Heard first appeared on the music scene in 1977 as co-founder of new wave band The Carpettes, who were signed to Small Wonder Records, reached no. 2 in NME's New Wave chart, and recorded a John Peel session in 1978. Since then he has been involved with a string of other bands, including amongst others Eyes to the Sky and Somebody Famous, both of whom also featured Tim Jones who now runs the Stone Premonitions label. In 2015, Stone Premonitions released Timeline, a retrospective compilation of Kevin Heard's recordings from the 1980s onwards. Since then Kevin has been working on new material, and his latest album Cydonia is out now. The album is themed around the storyline of a mission to Mars, with titles like Mars Orbit Rendezvous, Martian Dawn and Under Blood Red Sands. The music is played entirely by Kevin on a vast array of guitars, synths and woodwind instruments. Cydonia is fantastic heavy spacerock, with forceful guitar work and bubbling sci-fi synths, and a very strong memorable tune. Kingdom Come is psych-rock with folky and Middle Eastern tinges, ornamented by a whirling flute melody. Martian Dawn combines filmic ambient soundscaping with meandering psychedelic guitar. Ice on the Pyramids has a melodic pop sensibility yet also allows for eclectic musical exploration, taking in elements of Middle Eastern, Peruvian and Spanish musics, ska-ish sax, and psychedelic vocal effects. The album is a truly superb synthesis of hard hitting spacerock, world music, and catchy accessible melodies, from a seriously talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Definitely well worth checking out! Available at www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com, with further info including an extensive biography of Kevin Heard at www.aural-innovations.com/stonepremonitions. The first 100 copies come with a badge featuring the album artwork.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Uncanny Tales from the Everyday Undergrowth double CD (The Hip Replacement)
Tenth anniversary reissue of the Soft Hearted Scientists' debut album, packed full of top quality psych-pop with soaring, mega-catchy melodies and a free-thinking musical approach. The Petition is part laid-back, off-centre psych-folk in the vein of the Incredible String Band, and part driving upbeat pop-rock, ornamented by fairground organ and whirring vintage synth. Diving Bell is brilliant psych-pop introduced by chugging human beatbox sounds. The Haunted Song has an original, multifaceted arrangement that switches from dark-edged psych-folk-pop to positive and uplifting psych-pop, taking in pre-programmed electronic rhythms, Jew's harp, military drums, and vintage synth along the way. Isabella seamlessly combines US folk-rock, Parisian accordion music, cosmic electronica, and baroque, as though having all those styles in one song was the most natural thing in the world. The Soft Hearted Scientists' lyrics are witty, observational, and at times surreal. They pay tribute to the father of surreal wit, Edward Lear, by setting his poem The Yongy Bongy Bo to a folky psych-pop melody that suits the lyrics perfectly.
This new edition comes with a bonus CD of home recorded demo versions of all the album tracks. More lo-fi, and generally with more stripped-down arrangements than the final versions, but oozing with homemade charm, these recordings shine a light on the songs' origins, and thus this reissue is well worth owning even if you already have the original. A fantastic album of creative, well-crafted music that is well worth checking out. Find out more at www.softheartedscientists.com
NATIONAL PASTIME A Brighter Sky CD (Pastime)
Fourth studio album from 1980s-influenced indiepop band National Pastime, who have now expanded their line-up to include former Morrisons singer/guitarist Scott Morrison alongside the existing band members Andrew Padfield, Andy Botterill (also known for his solo work as Andy B), and Chris Head. In the most part the album is made up of honest and wistful songs firmly rooted within the classic era of indiepop. They cite the likes of early Primal Scream, the Television Personalities, The Smiths, Sarah Records, and the C86 scene among their influences, and this list does give a good idea of National Pastime's sound. They are, however, unafraid to add extra facets to their music. Their darker, spikier side is revealed in post-punk influenced tracks like Don't Look at Me, Life's a Merry Go Round, and Caught Me At a Loose End, while Do What You Do combines bright and optimistic indiepop with sha-la-la backing vocals with a fuzzy, hypnotic style that hints at both psych-rock and shoegaze, and Stars in the Sky injects some rock 'n' roll attitude into a genre that is normally perceived as being the antithesis of rock 'n' roll. Whilst National Pastime are in many ways following in the footsteps of the indiepop pioneers, they are also open minded enough to disregard the indiepop rulebook and challenge perceptions of the genre. The CD is available at pastimerecords.webs.com, and a download version can be obtained from pastimerecords.bandcamp.com
MARK McDOWELL Time Machine CD (self-released)
Compilation album bringing together the tracks from Mark McDowell's four EPs recorded between 2011 and 2015. Died in Love is excellent psych-folk with some authentically 60s-sounding moments alongside that slightly eerie undercurrent that characterises the best examples of this genre. Bright Lights is amazing retro psych-folk with a mellow mood and soaring orchestration. Girls of Belvoir sets a grim tale of historical witchcraft to an engaging blend of folk, intense psych-rock, and sophisticated orchestral instrumentation. Ride with Jesus is gentle, summery songwriting that ought to appeal to fans of classic indiepop just as much as it would to the psych-folk crowd. You Make Me Feel is an effective mix of tropical electronic rhythms, sunshine pop-esque woodwind, whirring retro-futuristic synth, and 60s-ish guitar work. Mark McDowell is a hugely talented artist whose work is, quite honestly, up there with the acknowledged greats of psych-folk, past and present. A very, very, highly recommended album. Available on CD or download from mcdowell.bandcamp.com
BACK TO AQUAMARINE