THE SPEED OF SOUND I'm Real 7"/download (BE Records Manchester)
The Speed of Sound have a long history in the UK underground. Formed in 1989 under the name The Blood Oranges, they were immersed in cassette culture and appeared on tapes as diverse as the indie pop compilation You Can't Be Loved Forever #2 released by Philip Ball of The Rileys and Feverfew to accompany his fanzine, and a compilation from the more experimental/eclectic Hypertonia World Enterprises label run by Jan R Bruun. The Speed of Sound have retained their firmly independent ethos under their current guise, stating that they "exist in spite of the Music Industry, rather than because of it, and speak from outside its grasping tentacles". Their latest release is in aid of The Pankhurst Trust, celebrating 100 years since UK women gained the vote, and raising awareness of issues that still have the potential to impact upon women today. I'm Real is told from the perspective of a woman who has ended up in an unhealthy relationship leaving her stifled and controlled, while I Don't Want Your Attentions addresses workplace sexual harassment. The single is limited to 250 hand-numbered copies, with a label design that cleverly combines the mod target with the purple, green and white of the Suffragette sash. I'm Real is spiky 1980s indie pop with a clanging guitar sound and an uncompromising punk attitude. I Don't Want Your Attentions also draws from the punkier end of 1980s indie pop, balancing strong melody with forceful noise; the piece is however just as much informed by hard-edged 1960s mod and also includes an intricate rock guitar solo, showing that this band have no intention of buying into restrictive rules about genre boundaries. Available at thespeedofsound.bandcamp.com as of 10th September 2018. More info on the Pankhurst Trust at www.pankhursttrust.org
THE CHEMISTRY SET Firefly 7" (Fruits de Mer)
NICK NICELY All Along the Watchtower 7" (Fruits de Mer)
ELFIN BOW & GARY LLOYD Who Knows Where the Time Goes 7" (Fruits de Mer)
TOUCH We Feel Fine 7" (Fruits de Mer)
Four new 7" singles out this December from Fruits de Mer Records. The Chemistry Set celebrate their 30th anniversary with two brand new songs exclusive to this single. Firefly is a great slice of noisy psych-pop in which a laid-back, swirling melody with Middle Eastern tinges is juxtaposed with squalling fuzz guitars. Sail Away is a soaring psych track based around jangly strummed 12-string, slide guitar, tablas and atmospheric drones, giving way to a searing guitar solo.
nick nicely completely reinvents Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower as an innovative slice of modern psychedelia which takes in atmospheric electronica, fiery guitar soloing and soulful vocals. This is paired with the experimental psych-pop track Doors of Perception, setting a strong tune to a heady mix of dreamlike atmospherics, rhythmic thrums and mindbending guitar work.
Elfin Bow, alias Elizabeth Anne Jones, is joined here by composer and producer Gary Lloyd and the Scottish Session Orchestra which comprises musicians from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The lead track on this single is a beautifully atmospheric orchestrated version of the Sandy Denny classic Who Knows Where the Time Goes, the lush cinematic strings a perfect match for Elizabeth's soaring vocals. The Wisdom is a very lovely folk-pop song ornamented with a luxurious string and brass arrangement. This is my first introduction to Elfin Bow and I'm definitely keen to hear more.
The original idea for Fruits de Mer was for it to be a 7" reissue label; this intention never went to plan at the time, but 10 years later the label has now released a single with three late 1960s tracks by Touch, two from their 1969 album on Deram, and the debut appearance on vinyl for a song intended for a 1968 single which was never released at the time. Touch made an intense hybrid of psych and prog which was pretty groundbreaking. We Feel Fine incorporates dramatic impassioned vocals, proggy twists and turns, and fiercely intense guitar soloing. Down at Circe's Place is a multifaceted piece that starts off like a meeting of vintage action movie theme music and experimental psychedelia, with an insistent piano riff accompanied by parping brass, busy percussion and wild psych guitar work. It then morphs into gentle ethereal psychedelia, before introducing scorching psych-prog guitars, choral vocals, harpsichord-like keyboard and manic drumming, this final section building up so much pressure that it practically explodes at the end. We Finally Met Today subverts the kind of rock 'n' roll typical of the era with dizzying prog convolutions, intense jazz inclinations and heavy psychedelia.
An impressive clutch of singles, all highly recommended. Available as of 31st December 2018 from www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
VLIMMER XI & XII CDs/Cassettes/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Alexander Leonard Donat is a prolific musician involved with a number of bands; Fir Cone Children and WHOLE have been reviewed in these pages before, and now there is this new release from his solo project Vlimmer. The two EPs come as a pair, each one highlighting a different side of the Vlimmer sound. They are released as part of an ongoing 18-part series, and are packaged in the now-familiar Blackjack Illuminist in-house style with homemade packaging incorporating real photographs, this time with an atmospheric nature-based approach. XI opens with Wärme, which despite its title of 'Warmth' evokes a gloomy gothic atmosphere with its chilly ambience and harsh industrial rhythms. Leben has a more positive sound which brings together airy shoegaze with early 80s synthpop influences. Licht is gothic pop wrapped in an ethereal swirl, combining a shoegaze wall-of-noise with ambient elements. Lösung takes the effervescent synth rhythms of mainstream 80s electropop and adds goth and shoegaze elements for a blast of icy air. Regen is a beautifully atmospheric darkwave piece with a sense of optimism shining through the melancholy. XII was devised as a more aggressive counterpoint to the airy XI, the warmth, light and life of XI juxtaposed with XII's tracks dealing with bleak and destructive concepts. There are a couple of tracks on XII that sound paradoxically positive to these ears, the uptempo synthpop of Farblosigkeit, and Asphaltdecke which offsets an insistent electronic chug with a dreampop whirl, incorporating airy choralesque backing vocals, but elsewhere on the EP, the fierce noise and unsettling atmospheres come through in full force. Krakenkombat is sharp, belligerent noise-rock with goth, shoegaze, electro and metal elements, its chainsaw guitar attack and relentless electronic throb employed for maximum heavy effect. Zerschmetterung is a heavy shoegaze noise onslaught, woozy yet biting. Atemnot sets fractured, pained songwriting to a chilling, nightmarish ambient soundscape. An inventive pair of EPs that seamlessly combine a variety of genres into a cohesive and evocative whole. Visit blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com
WEIMAR John Doe/Curse the Songs CD (Marlene's Hat) / Download (German Shepherd)
Debut single from Manchester 4-piece Weimar, who include The Speed of Sound's John Armstrong on bass, alongside Aidan Cross (vocals, rhythm guitar), Johann Kloos (lead guitar) and Anthony Edwards (drums). The single is produced by Simon 'Ding' Archer (The Fall, Pixies, etc) and is released as a digital download by German Shepherd Records and CD on the band's own label Marlene's Hat Records. The two tracks here are spiky, angular art rock; John Doe is an effective mix of choppy punky sounds, slightly psychedelic retro rock, and tinges of dark cabaret, while Curse the Songs begins with a bleak post-punk feel before gradually building up into an intense slice of jittery, rattly experimental rock with forceful punky yelps and roars, fierce slicing guitar noise, and a chorus that's as catchy as it is raucous. Great to know that Weimar are currently working on an album. Find out more at weimarbanduk.com
FIREFAY La Dame aux Chats lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
VUKOVAR Decameron (or 10 Days of Violence) lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Sonido Polifonico is a label that goes to great lengths to make their releases something truly special. These highly limited (67 and 61 copies respectively) lathe cut 7"s are each wrapped in tissue paper and packaged within a cardboard box tied up with string, which also includes an envelope containing two badges and a ceramic token. The token that comes with the Firefay 7" is pierced with a hole so it can be worn as a pendant, while the one with the Vukovar 7" has a crow design moulded into it, its rustic asymmetrical shape resembling an ancient coin. The 7"s themselves are packaged in the classic underground way, in a foldover sleeve and plastic bag, with hand-stamped labels. It's so lovely to find out about a label that takes so much care with its releases, making each one a complete work of art.
Firefay's La Dame aux Chats is an elegant jazz-inflected French chanson, while Closure Tango is soaked in haunted melancholy, with Carole Bulewski's vocals backed by a chamber orchestra interwoven with eerie synth. The Vukovar single is the first I've heard from them but it's got me intrigued to hear more. Decameron (or 10 Days of Violence) sets a melancholic though infectiously catchy song to atmospheric avant garde music based around bleak vintage synth sounds, drones and noise. The Three Shades inventively brings together the upbeat and poppy with the ethereal and experimental. Vukovar take pop out of its original context to create an innovative brand of dark, experimental, yet melodic music. Get these great singles while you still can at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Please Read Me 7" (Fruits de Mer)
JACK ELLISTER When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease 7" (Fruits de Mer)
SENDELICA/SECRET KNOWLEDGE/THE ORB Windmill 12" (Fruits de Mer)
Soft Hearted Scientists have been on hiatus for a while, with Nathan Hall focusing on his other band Nathan Hall and the Sinister Locals in the meantime. They have however returned to the studio to record a new single, which is out now on Fruits de Mer as a coloured vinyl 7". Please Read Me is a song from the Bee Gees' early days as a pop-psych outfit. The Soft Hearted Scientists version is a luxurious and uplifting blend of chiming jangle, spacey synth, piano, and vocal harmonies, backed with Moths Mistook Us for the Moon, an exclusive new track that takes a gentle, folk-tinged psych-pop song and places it within a lavish, multi-layered arrangement replete with orchestration and fizzing, whooshing synth sounds. More great stuff from this highly creative and continually recommended band.
Jack Ellister has chosen to reinterpret two songs from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, namely Roy Harper's When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease and Black Sabbath's Supernaut. Cricketer is an introspective song based around the resonant tones of a grand piano that had belonged to Jack's grandfather in Poland, while Supernaut is fierce and unrestrained, juxtaposing a catchy Far Eastern-tinged riff with rumbling, booming bass and distorted snarly vocals, the overall result best described as psychedelic heavy metal. Lesser artists might not be able to pull off such an extraordinary level of eclecticism, but with Jack Ellister, it really works. This single is also available on coloured vinyl 7", this time with a fold-out poster.
Windmill is a one-off collaboration between the prolific Fruits de Mer band Sendelica, Secret Knowledge who comprise writer Kris Needs and singer Wonder Schneider, and were known in the 1990s house/techno scene for their releases on Andrew Weatherall's label Sabres of Paradise, Heavenly, One Little Indian and other labels, and The Orb, who achieved mainstream success with their pioneering ambient house material, and as such must surely need no introduction. The EP contains four mixes of a song recorded in memory of Kris Needs' partner Helen Donlon who passed away last year. Consterdine's Floyd Mix is based around the rich contralto vocals of Wonder Schneider. The song itself is essentially soul, but the arrangement plunges it into broader eclectic territories. The guitar melody that opens the song has an ethereal and melancholic feel that would sound just as at home in a dreampop track, while gently meandering sax adds sprinklings of psychedelic jazz. Chocolate Orb Dubbed Mix features samples of Helen Donlon's speech from a psychedelic drug conference held in Ibiza in 2017, alongside mellow washes of ambient sound, piano, and slowly shuffling dance beats. Chocolate Orb Chilled Mix is woozy and atmospheric, combining elements of ambient and post-rock for a calming listening experience. Available as a limited edition coloured vinyl 12" EP, with only a handful of copies remaining at the time of writing.
Find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
BURD ELLEN Chi Mi Bhuam lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Burd Ellen is the new project of Debbie Armour, who has previously worked with Alasdair Roberts and Alex Rex. Debbie is joined by Gayle Brogan (Pefkin, Barrett's Dottled Beauty, Electroscope) and Lucy Duncan (Luki). This clear, heavyweight lathe cut 7" is packaged with the same astonishing attention to detail that characterises all releases from Sonido Polifonico, a label that goes the extra mile to make their releases complete works of art. The 7" has hand-stamped, hand-numbered labels and the classic underground wraparound sleeve in plastic bag, and furthermore comes packaged in a string-tied, hand-painted cardboard box, my copy featuring blue swirls and flecks recalling the sea. The box also contains a photographic slide, two badges in a hand-stamped envelope, and a ceramic token in a blue foil pouch. Chi Mi Bhuam is based on the first verse of a song by Mull-born and Glasgow-based bard Iain MacPhaidein, which can be found in a book of Gaelic poems and songs he had published in 1902 under the Anglicised spelling of his name, John MacFadyen. The song sets traditional-style Scottish folk to a creative experimental arrangement that pairs stark, minimalistic drones with spine-tinglingly beautiful vocal harmonies. Over on the B-side there's Chi Mi Bhuam West Mains Mix by Rev Magnetic, which transforms the piece into a feverish, dreamlike blend of ambient, experimental and neoclassical music. There is even a section which treats Debbie's voice with autotune, but far from being used in the bland, generic manner of mainstream pop, this vocal effect is instead employed to create a woozy, psychedelic atmosphere. A truly superb experimental folk single from a band I'm keen to hear more from. Limited to 99 copies, with only 13 left at the time of writing. Available at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
VLIMMER XIII & XIIII CDs/Cassettes/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Prolific Berlin-based musician Alexander Leonard Donat returns under his Vlimmer guise with the 13th and 14th parts of a planned 18-EP series. The EPs each include five tracks and are packaged in the distinctive in-house style of Blackjack Illuminist, with hand assembled card wallets featuring art photography. Gesellschaftsrücken combines goth aesthetics with Kraftwerk-ish electronics and shades of experimental film score, swathed in a woozy dreampop haze. Menschenstrom is dark ethereal pop set to a nightmarish, feverish, and at times discordant soundscape. Teilunheil is a highly original piece that juxtaposes harsh, fast and busy electronics with atmospheric cinematic sounds that have the epic grandiosity of classical music, along with vocals that veer from the post-punkish to the almost choral. Klavierbeton opens with a woozy noise onslaught recalling My Bloody Valentine at their loudest, and seamlessly joins this with the contrasting sounds of dreamy chiming jangle and post-punk anger and despair. Bankrott is sparkling, airy pop with added post-punk bite, segueing into a brooding, surreal, horror filmic instrumental. Stecknadelkopf is hard-edged goth-pop with booming percussion and swirling walls of shoegaze noise. The EPs comprise an innovative, multifaceted set of sounds held together by a dark aesthetic. Available at blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com
TRIPTIDES Nirvana Now 7" (Hypnotic Bridge)
THE BLACK WATCH Crying All the Time! 7" (Hypnotic Bridge)
ELECTRIC LOOKING GLASS Death of a Season 7" (Hypnotic Bridge)
Hypnotic Bridge Records is an exciting psychedelic label specialising in 7" vinyl, each single/EP limited to 500 copies. Steeped in the Southern Californian psych counterculture, the label was set up to showcase a variety of bands at their most 60s-inspired and psychedelic. The label places equal importance on music and art, with many of the 7"s featuring swirling, colourful sleeve designs that are very much in keeping with the artwork of the original 1960s psychedelic scene. It's great to discover another label that produces complete audio-visual art packages aimed squarely at genuine fans who will surely make these records a part of their treasured collection. Hypnotic Bridge was founded in 2016, though the majority of their output has been released this year (2019). I have the three most recent 7"s, all by Los Angeles-based bands.
Triptides began in 2010 as a home recording project led by multi-instrumentalist Glenn Brigman, who is now joined by a full band. This new 2-song 7" on Hypnotic Bridge follows seven albums and a multitude of 7" and cassette singles on various other labels. Nirvana Now sets ethereal reverbed vocals to blistering retro psych-rock. I'm hearing slight shades of Ride here and there, but for the most part, the track has a firm basis in 1960s psych. She Is Dressed In Red is a heady blend of chiming 12-string guitar, swirling vintage keyboard, sitar, and mindbending psychedelic guitar solos, coming across like an authentic artefact of the late 1960s.
Hot on the heels of new album Magic Johnson, long-running and prolific outfit the black watch present their latest EP which brings their psychedelic influences to the forefront, without disregarding the indiepop and post-punk aspects that are important parts of this multifaceted band's sound. Crying All the Time! combines a fuzzy noisepop chug with soaring atmospheric Mellotron orchestration courtesy of Rob Campanella (ex-Brian Jonestown Massacre). One Hundred Million Times Around the Sun seamlessly blends the classic 80s jangly indiepop sound with squalling backwards guitar and airy Mellotron atmospherics, while Much of a Muchness blurs the boundaries between psych-pop and shoegaze, swathing a strong pop tune and an insistent chugging bassline in layers of ethereal noise and heady effects, and incorporating an intense psychedelic guitar solo. the black watch's hectic release schedule shows no signs of slowing down; there are plans for another new album on the excellent A Turntable Friend Records, which I'm very much looking forward to hearing.
You know you're going to get something totally in the authentic 1960s spirit with Electric Looking Glass's Death of a Season. They look like a real 60s band in the picture on the cover, with their paisley, polka dots and stripy trousers, and Mat Dunlap's sleeve art goes all out with the genuine 60s look, including a great 3D bubbly swirly font for the band name. The music definitely doesn't disappoint; here are two absolutely stellar tracks that sound like genuine lost classics from the 60s. Death of a Season is dreamy and soulful, with chiming guitars, harmony vocals and a Hammond organ that swirls just as much as the amazing cover artwork, plus a fuzz guitar solo that shows a rockier dimension to the band, while Someday Soon is cheery baroque pop-psych ornamented with tinkling harpsichord and lilting Mellotron. This appears to be the debut release from Electric Looking Glass; hopefully there will be more to follow from this band.
These are all top quality singles, highly recommended for fans of psychedelic music. More info at www.hypnoticbridge.com
MEADOWSILVER Singles CD (Millersounds)
Meadowsilver are Gayle Brogan (Pefkin, Electroscope), Grey Malkin (Widow's Weeds, The Hare and the Moon), and Stephen Stannard (The Rowan Amber Mill). Following a series of digital-only singles, they have now compiled these, plus a previously unreleased track, onto this luxuriously packaged CD which comes with art inserts, stickers and badges in a card wallet. Midsummer's Queen takes a song reminiscent of the more psychedelic end of 1970s electric folk and swathes it in lashings of Moog, Mellotron, and beautiful string and woodwind orchestration. Fair Sapphire accompanies Gayle's soaring, atmospheric vocals with a multi-layered, swirling wall of sound incorporating orchestration, psychedelic whooshes and whirrs, and even a loping dancey rhythm, which is unexpected in this type of music but works remarkably well. The song has just as much emphasis on melody as atmosphere, with a strong memorable tune that is well and truly lodged in my brain. Coronation of the Herring Queen is a darkly ethereal combination of electric folk and heady electronics. Bonus track Hushabye Mountain is laid-back dreamlike folk, setting airy vocals to a liquid psychedelic arrangement incorporating percussion with an almost tropical tinge. An astonishingly beautiful set of songs that brings considerable inventiveness to the psych-folk and electric folk fields. Very much recommended. Available at meadowsilver.bandcamp.com
KISSAMATIC LOVEBUBBLES FEAT. THE TWELVE HOUR FOUNDATION Endless 7" (Old Bad Habits)
ARREST! CHARLIE TIPPER The 93% 7" (Old Bad Habits)
THE FLATMATES Shut Up and Kiss Me 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Old Bad Habits is a new indie pop label run by Vasilis from Kissamatic Lovebubbles. The label releases 7" singles packaged in the classic underground way with wraparound sleeves in plastic bags; you also get various inserts, stickers and badges, and the singles are all limited edition coloured vinyl. It's always great to learn of new labels that are keeping the indie pop spirit alive! Whilst the Old Bad Habits Label is based in Greece, the first three singles all have a connection with Bristol.
Athens band Kissamatic Lovebubbles, who take their name from a Strawberry Story song, originally existed between 1992 and 1995 and reformed in 2017. This orange vinyl 7" features two songs from the band's original era, augmented with additional recordings from Bristol duo The Twelve Hour Foundation, who comprise Jez Butler (The Groove Farm, Girlboy Girl, Tramway etc) and Polly Hulse, and use 40 year old synths and found objects to create a sound inspired by vintage BBC recordings and library music. Punky indie pop and Radiophonic retrofuturism may seem like an unlikely combination, but this bringing together of buzzsaw guitars and bouncy electronic melodies and analogue whooshes and whirrs actually works really well to create an exhilarating electro-noisepop rush.
Arrest! Charlie Tipper (formerly known as The Charlie Tipper Experiment and The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy) are a Bristol band with connections to The Flatmates, Beatnik Filmstars, The Groove Farm and Rorschach. Their latest single is on red vinyl and features The 93%, exuberant, scratchy, fuzzy noisepop laced with mariachi-tinged trumpet and vintage organ, and Pete's Dead which balances melancholy and celebration with hints of 60s soul and a joyous trumpet solo intermingled with classic indie pop.
The Flatmates reformed a few years ago with a new line-up; their latest single (on purple vinyl) features original members Martin Whitehead and Rocker along with Brian Price (also of Peru), Lisa Bouvier, Mattias Lidehäll, and guest bassist Geoff Gorton (formerly of Rorschach and Beatnik Filmstars). Shut Up and Kiss Me is a great slice of catchy buzzsaw pop, bringing together 60s girl group melody and harmony with riotous punk energy. Fuzzy punky noise and 60s organ provide the backdrop for Lisa's powerful vocals. Rescue Me sees the band adding something of a psychedelic element to their sound with garage riffage and huge swirly effects alongside their trademark blend of punky fuzz and strong memorable tunes - another top track!
Great stuff here from this exciting new label - there are also other singles in the works which I'm keen to hear. Get the singles at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
WATERLESS HILLS Waverley Cross lathe cut 8" (Sonido Polifonico)
8" square clear lathe-cut single packaged with the usual attention to detail expected of Sonido Polifonico. There's a tracing paper outer sleeve, photographic insert, and hand-stamped envelope containing two badges and a ceramic crow token designed by Bev Seth, all contained within a hand-numbered cardboard box. Cover art is based on a piece by Ithell Colquhoun, and the typography has a Letraset look about it, recalling underground records from the 80s and early 90s. This appears to be the debut release from Waterless Hills, who comprise C Joynes, Andrew Cheetham, Gavin Clarke, and DBH. The two tracks here, Waverley Cross and The Empty House of the Son of the Vali of Pusht-i-Kuh, are improvisations recorded live to tape, partly inspired by explorer Freya Stark's travels as detailed in her book Valley of the Assassins. The minimalistic, label-less design of the single itself means I'm not completely sure which of the pieces is which, but on the one side you get a great slice of electric psych-folk with Middle Eastern undercurrents, somewhat like a more intense, psychedelic and improvisational version of the early 70s UK folk-rock sound, while on the other side, brooding post-rock gives way to slightly eerie folk pastoralism and Middle Eastern meanderings. Very much recommended for fans of adventurous folk-inspired music. Limited to just 99 copies, available at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
CRYSTAL JACQUELINE AND THE HONEY POT I Talk to the Wind double 7" (Fruits de Mer)
CHAD & JEREMY / SCHIZO FUN ADDICT / HANFORD FLYOVER / US AND THEM Sunny Spells 7" (Fruits de Mer)
Crystal Jacqueline and the Honey Pot deliver five cover versions of 1960s and 70s tracks across two 7"s, including Traffic's Mr Fantasy, which offsets the bluesy rock of the song itself with a hazy ethereal arrangement taking in tinkling bells, airy effects, lilting Mellotron and atmospheric echoey vocals; a gentle, relaxing, richly orchestrated version of King Crimson's I Talk to the Wind; and an ultra-psychedelic rendition of Sun Goes Down by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, pairing mystical-sounding chanting with blistering psych-rock guitar.
Sunny Spells is a 4-song taster of the forthcoming extended edition of The Three Seasons compilation, which will include covers of material from 1966 to 1969 on three or maybe four CDs. Chad & Jeremy provide an acoustic version of their own song Rest in Peace - excellent psych-folk-pop with ringing guitars and vocal harmonies. Schizo Fun Addict reinterpret The Mamas and the Papas' Dedicated to the One I Love with tinkling keyboards, ethereal reverbed vocals and woozy/spacey/shoegazey effects. Hanford Flyover contribute a version of Just Another Day by Neon Pearl, airy prog-pop swathed in Mellotron orchestration and spacey whooshes and whirrs. Us and Them appear with Neil Young's What Did You Do To My Life, melancholic folk-pop with shades of retrofuturism and cinematic orchestration. Four excellent tracks that work well together; I look forward to hearing the full album due out in Spring 2020. Visit
ALICE HUBBLE Kick the Habit download (Happy Robots)
TINY MAGNETIC PETS Girl in a White Dress 12"/CD/download (Happy Robots)
Kick the Habit is the second single from Alice Hubble's recent album Polarlichter, reviewed earlier this issue. Drawing from 70s glam rock and retro synthpop with an additional helping of punk attitude, the song sets lusty lyrics about a nun rejecting religion in favour of leather-clad sexuality to a combination of driving riffage and whooshing vintage synths, the end result not too dissimilar to the spacerock 'n' roll of underground stalwarts Magic Moments at Twilight Time. The EP also features three remixes of Kick the Habit from other artists who all put their own distinctive stamp on the track. Soft Riot transforms it into spookily atmospheric darkwave; Rodney Cromwell's version has a retro sci-fi soundtrack feel with added football chant vocals from his kids; and Spaceship reinvisions the piece as a hybrid of post-apocalyptic video game music and late 80s house, shot through with harsh noise and bubbling synths.
Tiny Magnetic Pets return to Happy Robots with their new 4-track EP Girl in a White Dress. Wistful yet catchy indiepop meets vintage electronica in the title track, laden with chiming guitar and Mellotron strings. Kicked Off in Ikea is a critique of consumerism run amok, a tale of customers rioting at an Ikea Black Friday sale, set to dark-edged synthpop in the vein of New Order. In All the Mad Things, gentle ambient music gives way to strings-and-brass orchestration, topped off with melancholic ba-ba-bas and recited lyrics. Above & Overture is a retrofuturistic cinematic piece made entirely on 1970s instruments, with foreboding synths and an almost gothic guitar sound juxtaposed with soaring wordless vocals.
Two more great releases from my fave synthpop label Happy Robots, available at www.happyrobots.co.uk
STARS ON FIRE Please Come Home For Christmas 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Two slices of exhilarating noisepop on white vinyl from this South Korean band, out on the fantastic new Greek label Old Bad Habits, which is shaping up to be one of my favourite current sources of indie pop. Please Come Home for Christmas features the sort of fierce, squalling guitar noise that would delight fans of Boyracer, Meat Whiplash or early JAMC, juxtaposed with uplifting bursts of trumpet and a bittersweet pop tune, while Hurricane Hermione is very lovely, super-catchy indie pop wrapped up in a blissful whirl of dreamy jangle, choppy strum, and woozy shoegazey noise. A roaring success! Get it at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
WEIMAR Marvel to the State CD/Download (Marlene's Hat / German Shepherd)
Latest single from Manchester band Weimar, who include amongst others John Armstrong from The Speed of Sound. Both tracks here are rooted in the post-punk era, though the eclectic influences give each song a distinct sound. Marvel to the State is spiky art-rock which combines funky rhythms and soul touches with an angular punk spirit. Undesirable Master is my favourite song of the two, in which a catchy tune, indiepop jangle, and airy backing vocals co-exist with a sense of the surreal. More info at weimarbanduk.com
VLIMMER XIIIII CD/Cassette/Download with Comics (Blackjack Illuminist)
The 15th part of Vlimmer's planned 18-part EP series, which comes with the photographic art sleeve and inserts that are usual for the Blackjack Illuminist label, plus two issues of Vlimmer Dark Wave Comic. The five tracks here put an inventive experimental spin on gothic music. Rasenstarre combines the bleakness of darkwave, the airy atmosphere of shoegaze, and the mechanistic thud of industrial. Zielzyklus is a fog-shrouded slice of cinematic grandeur. Fluchtlauf creates a nightmarish sense of unease, shot through with a relentless electronic pulse and bursts of intense, brutal noise. The accompanying comics feature words by Vlimmer's Alexander Leonard Donat and striking black and white art by Bernardino Costantino, combined to create a surreal, unsettling experience with their themes of paranoia and despair. Available at blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com
JOWE HEAD AND FLEETING GLIMPSES Rotten Wood 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Pioneering underground artist Jowe Head, formerly of Swell Maps and Television Personalities, has formed this new band with Martha Hamilton and John Howard of Washington DC avant garde outfit The Plums. Their debut single is out on Old Bad Habits on green vinyl, with the classic underground packaging of wraparound sleeve and plastic bag, and comes with extras (full colour art insert and sticker, plus a badge with the first 200 copies). Rotten Wood is one-of-a-kind experimental art-pop, blending post-punk dissonance with a brand of psychedelia that's hypnotic and intense all at once. An oscillator whirrs away with flying saucer and raygun noises straight out of a vintage sci-fi film, alongside Jowe's unique growly vocal style. It's unusually catchy for such an angular song. Pablo Picasso is an adaptation of a Jonathan Richman song with additional lyrics by Jowe. It's a kind of lopsided punk-garage-spacerock, with insistent riffage topped off by a rhythmic shout. A very original and inventive pair of songs that's impossible to pigeonhole within a single genre. Highly recommended. Available at
DREIHASENBILD Visitation 7" (Wet Barbed Wire)
For the past decade, Stefan Keydel has played fiddle with The Victor Mourning, a hillbilly-noir band whose album A Handful of Locusts features guest appearances from Jad Fair and Tim Kerr. More recently Stefan has launched the solo home recording project Dreihasenbild, which takes its name from the three hares motif that has appeared across various cultural contexts and time periods. Whilst of apparently non-Christian origin, it became particularly widespread in medieval German churches; one such image appears on the back cover of this single. Dreihasenbild makes predominantly electronic music that's aligned with the hauntology movement. This 7" features two tracks that are very different in style yet complement each other well. Visitation is a neoclassical composition of immense beauty, in which a mournful violin melody coexists with eerie electronics and found sounds, while Return sets a 1917 recording of Scottish miner Robert Scott to multi-layered drones that swell and hum, ornamented by sparse, gentle synth melodies, making for a calming listening experience. A very lovely single from a project I look forward to hearing more from. Visit www.dreihasenbild.com
TRAPPIST AFTERLAND Allegory of Stars / Sacred Geometry lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Double A-side clear lathe cut 7" released as a companion piece to Trappist Afterland's forthcoming LP Seaside Ghost Tales. I believe both tracks are due to appear on the LP in full band form, but the versions here, which are exclusive to this release, feature Trappist Afterland founder Adam Geoffrey Cole solo, on vocals, guitar and tanpura. The 7" is packaged with the usual attention to detail expected of Sonido Polifonico, with a wraparound sleeve printed on overhead projector film, and added extras, namely a photograph of Adam, two badges, and a ceramic crow token handmade by Bev Seth. Allegory of Stars is beautiful, moving, mystical psych-folk, with strummed and intricately picked acoustic guitars underscored by the calming hum of the tanpura, and a soaring chorus with effective use of vocal harmonies. Even though the arrangement is fairly minimal, the song still manages to retain the heady, fully absorbing atmosphere that characterises Trappist Afterland's music in general. Sacred Geometry is a sparser piece that combines reflective acoustic contemporary folk with a psychedelic undercurrent. This 7" was limited to an alarmingly small number of just 57 copies, and as to be expected, sold out immediately at the label. For those who missed out, the songs can be downloaded at Trappist Afterland's Bandcamp page. Find out more about Sonido Polifonico at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
CHEWED PALACES Sacred Geometries / Time Shift lathe cut 7" (Sleep FUSE)
Released pretty much simultaneously with the Trappist Afterland 7" reviewed above, and by some strange coincidence also featuring a track with a very similar title, is this lathe cut 7" by Chewed Palaces, a collaboration between Peter Lyon (Palace of Swords) and Allan Murphy (Chewed Tape). It is limited to just 50 copies and released by Sleep FUSE, the electronic offshoot of Reverb Worship. Sacred Geometries features spoken vocals over psychedelic, funky riffage and spacey effects, shot through with a relentless electronic pulse. Time Shift is retro-futuristic electronic experimentalism that balances a dark-edged atmosphere with a sense of fun. There's elements of vintage sci-fi film music, the whirring analogue synth sound of spacerock, industrial noise and cutups, and 80s Casio rhythms that add a touch of bedroom pop to the whole thing. Very inventive stuff that's impossible to pin down into a single genre. Get the single while you still can at www.reverbworship.com. There is also a download version with different mixes and extra tracks at chewedtape.bandcamp.com
THE REV. JONNY KINKAID AND THE IMAGINARY NOWHERE BAND European Getaway 7" (Old Bad Habits)
THE DRAIN ON THE BALCONY Truly Deeply Madly 7" (Old Bad Habits)
The Rev. Jonny Kinkaid, also known as Jon Kent (The Groove Farm, Beatnik Filmstars, Arrest! Charlie Tipper), provides two slices of innovative DIY pop on a yellow vinyl 7" with its label appropriately printed in the colours of the EU flag. The single comes with a sticker and insert written in the style of a postcard sent from Athens. European Getaway incorporates Mediterranean tinges into parts of the melody, alongside squalling guitar noise and experimental electronic burblings, while Concrete and Rust is a piece of hushed melancholic beauty, underscoring lo-fi pop with buzzy noise and atmospheric electronica. Two really superb tracks that put a new, inventive spin on lo-fi indie pop; I'm definitely keen to hear more from this band.
The Drain on the Balcony were originally formed in 1977, during the height of the punk era, and returned in 2009. They were the first band of Rocker (The Rosehips, The Flatmates, Arrest! Charlie Tipper). They follow various cassette and CD releases with their first 7" single, on pink vinyl with insert and sticker. Rocker doesn't actually play on either of the songs here but is the producer. Truly Deeply Madly is energetic, melodic, fuzzy noisepop which will appeal to fans of both melodic punk and C86 while surprising them with an organ solo that seems to be drawing simultaneously from blues-rock and fairground music. The Woman Who Walks Through Walls has a completely different sound which I'm going to loosely call 'punk noir'. There's a brooding, cinematic feel to the track, with lyrics delivered with a punky snarl over a dark, tense backdrop that features such things as military drumming, violin and Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar. A very creative, eclectic outfit who clearly aren't interested in confining themselves with needlessly strict musical rules.
Both 7"s are limited to 130 copies, available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
BHOPAL'S FLOWERS Diamond Queen 7" (Hypnotic Bridge)
Earlier this issue I reviewed two Fruits de Mer Records compilations, A Band for All Seasons and The Half Time Orange, both of which featured great contributions from Bhopal's Flowers. This band have now released a new 7" on the highly recommended psychedelic label Hypnotic Bridge Records, with two tracks dedicated to the Hindu deities of dawn and dusk, Usha and Surayana. Inspired by Hinduism via Anthroposophy, Bhopal's Flowers bring Eastern and Western music together, with aspects of traditional raga composition combined with bright, sparkling, 60s-informed pop. The dawn side, Diamond Queen, opens with a meditative tanpura and sitar intro, before launching into an uplifting, super-catchy pop song taking on board a top-notch 60s-ish guitar solo, surfy drums and sprinklings of atmospheric psychedelic effects. Dusk side The Majestic Purple Sky opts for maximum jangle factor, with 12-string Rickenbacker plugged into a JangleBox compressor, this being paired with glorious sitar playing, with wah-wah guitar and synthesised strings contributing further to the heady blend on offer here. The melody and lyrics are soulful and ecstatic, the overall atmosphere of the track living up to the majesty of the title. A very highly recommended single from a band I hope to hear more from in future. Available at www.hypnoticbridge.com; more info on the band at their Facebook page.
THE LEFT OUTSIDES As Night Falls lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
The first very limited run of this single sold out immediately, so Sonido Polifonico have put out a second edition, also limited to just 97 copies, for those who missed out the first time around. This label is known for going the extra mile with making their releases a complete work of art. This lathe cut 7" comes with bonus items, namely a postcard, two badges, and a ceramic token made by Bev Seth, featuring a stylised swallow, and punched with a hole so it can be worn as a pendant. The Left Outsides are Alison Cotton and Mark Nicholas, also of The Eighteenth Day of May and The Trimdon Grange Explosion; Alison had also previously been a member of Saloon. As Night Falls (sung by Mark) is darkly atmospheric, hazily psychedelic folk, ornamented by sighing strings and featuring vividly evocative poetic lyrics. The Wind No Longer Stirs the Trees (sung by Alison) is a deeply moving piece made up of equal parts folk, vintage pop, and psychedelia, taking in a clanging garagey guitar sound, ethereal wordless backing vocals, and string interludes that are melancholic yet warm and comforting all at once. A truly superb single from this excellent band and label. Get it at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
SURF MUSCLE Theme from Surf Muscle lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Sonido Polifonico is mostly known for underground folk music, often of a psychedelic or experimental nature, but will now and again venture into other genres. Here is a two track lathe cut single on clear heavyweight vinyl from instrumental surf outfit Surf Muscle, with Theme from Surf Muscle giving the surf treatment to a tune laden with drama and excitement, sounding like music from the car chase scene in a 1960s action movie, while over on the B-side they reinvent Hall of the Mountain King from Grieg's Peer Gynt, which works astonishingly well as a surf instrumental with that twangy guitar sound. As always with Sonido Polifonico, the packaging is also worthy of mention. The band members are depicted on the front cover as cartoon monsters, while the back cover art transports them into a 1980s video game. You also get a black and gold hand-stamped envelope with two badges and a Bev Seth ceramic token featuring a video game-inspired cartoon duck. Limited to just 57 copies and close to selling out already, so get your orders in quick at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
JIMMY KNOWS Eye of the Storm 7" (Old Bad Habits)
THE YELLOW MELODIES We All Deserve A Chance 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Two new singles from the Old Bad Habits Label, one from a brand new band and the other from a band with a history stretching back to the 1990s. Athens band Jimmy Knows present their debut release Eye of the Storm, a two track 7" on pale yellow vinyl, limited to 250 hand-numbered copies with a free sticker included. Pilot opens with some intricate guitar work inspired by late 60s/early 70s classic rock and infused with a spy movie-esque sense of drama; elsewhere the song bridges the gap between alternative rock and intelligent, emotional guitar pop, with tinges now and then of 1990s Radiohead. Eye of the Storm, whilst being the overarching title of the single, is actually on the B-side. The Radiohead influence is also detectable here, though the overall sound of this song is bright jangly pop with a subtle undercurrent of psychedelia, which becomes less subtle as the piece progresses, culminating in a guitar solo-driven finale situated firmly within the sphere of late 60s-style psychedelic rock. The song's poppier moments put me in mind at times of Sarah-era Sea Urchins; it's always great to hear music that reminds me of them. A lesser band would never be able to pull off a sound that combines The Sea Urchins and Radiohead, classic rock and spy movie soundtracks, but Jimmy Knows combine all these disparate elements into a cohesive whole with considerable success. An impressive debut; I look forward to hearing more from this band in future.
The Yellow Melodies, from Murcia in Spain, have released a prolific number of albums and singles on labels from several countries since forming in the late 1990s. Their latest is this 3-song EP on bright yellow vinyl, limited to 180 hand-numbered copies with full colour insert and sticker. We All Deserve a Chance is an anthem for music lovers everywhere, celebrating "every song that makes you dance ... every chord on the guitar ... every beat on the drum" within a musical setting that combines indiepop with the sound of the dancefloor, with thumping electronic drums and pulsating synth intertwined with a punchy pop guitar sound and beautiful soaring strings. Silhouette in Blue is uplifting indiepop in the classic 80s style, with shades of BMX Bandits and The Pastels. Once Upon a Time filters the sounds of the 60s through an indiepop lens, much like how The Springfields did, plus they bring in flute-effect Mellotron to contribute further to the airy, summery, 60s-ish atmosphere.
Two really great singles from this continually recommended label. Get them at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
FUCHSIA Barrett's Allsorts 7" (Fruits de Mer)
THE SUPERSTARS Metamorphosis 7" (Fruits de Mer)
Fuchsia originally released this pair of Syd Barrett covers on a highly limited lathe-cut single which is now extremely sought after and sells for exorbitant prices on ebay. Due to the high demand for these songs, they have now been reissued on 7" vinyl, with 400 copies available. First up is a very lovely version of the early Pink Floyd classic See Emily Play, adorned with sumptious orchestration and baroque electronics. Then there's the more overtly quirky Bike, its eccentric lyrics and bouncy rhythm swathed in swirling strings and closing with a fever dream of an outro in which an orchestra of chiming clocks, a marching band, classical music snippets, ethereal wordless vocals and backwards spoken word all come together to form a surreal piece of sound art.
The Superstars are an Italian/German prog duo making predominantly instrumental pieces. There are two versions of Metamorphosis, with organ and guitar that are pure 1970s prog, while hypnotic repetition and whooshing analogue synths also lend a spacerock element to the piece. Finale puts a prog spin on a synth melody that is both spacey and catchy and makes me think of 1970s TV themes. Both singles are available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
ALICE HUBBLE We Are Still Alone CD/Download (Happy Robots)
Third single from Alice Hubble's 2019 album Polarlichter, featuring a radio edit of We Are Still Alone along with three remixes of this song and one of the album's title track. We Are Still Alone is a melancholic and personal song dealing with family bereavement, overlaying early 80s-inspired synthpop with dreamlike Mellotron. Ghost Box Records' Pye Corner Audio brings the bleakness of the song to the forefront in an electronic soundscape with the chilling mood of a vintage dystopian sci-fi soundtrack. Roman Angelos' Themes 1 and 2 are brief synth instrumentals with the feel of retro TV themes. Polarlichter (ADRA Acoustic Mix) is the only guitar-based track here, a woozy, psychedelic, folk-tinged pop piece that is really very lovely. Find out more at www.happyrobots.co.uk
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