SISSY SPACE ECHO & THE INVISIBLE COLLABORATORS The Day the Earth Caught Fire 7" (Old Bad Habits Label)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire brings together punk, post-punk and synthpop with apocalyptic sci-fi lyrics, coming across something like a darker, spikier version of 80s/90s sci-fi pop band Stormclouds. The intro to They'll Fix You (They Fix Everything) may lead the listener to expect a more subdued and melancholic number, with its atmospheric soundscaping, mournful wordless vocals and retro synth bleepage, but this soon gives way to a powerful mix of effervescent pop, rock 'n' roll riffs and punk energy. The band effectively juxtapose bleakness with a playful sense of fun. Another winner from the great Old Bad Habits Label! The single is pressed on silver vinyl, with inserts and sticker, and limited to 150 copies, with only a handful remaining at the time of writing. Available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
DREIHASENBILD Verikuu Sulkavan Yli 7" (Wet Barbed Wire)
Second single from Dreihasenbild, the solo project of Stefan Keydel of The Victor Mourning. Verikuu Sulkavan Yli is a jaw-droppingly beautiful composition inspired by the scene depicted on the cover, a blood moon casting dappled light over a Finnish lake. An eerily repeating keyboard melody with a music box-like tone, mournful violin, and vocal sections informed by folk and choral music are combined to create a deeply moving listening experience. Over on the B-side there is After the Madness, a cinematic drone piece simultaneously evoking tension and calm, underlaid with crackly found sounds like boots trudging through snow. A continually recommended artist, whose drone pieces have depth and genuine atmosphere, and whose neoclassical pieces are truly in a league of their own. Available at dreihasenbild.bandcamp.com
PERSONA Old Man, Young Woman lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Ultra-limited lathe cut 7" from Persona, the Sheffield duo of Raquel Vogl and Claire Williams. The four songs here are genuinely sinister, with harrowing lyrics dealing with abuse, stalking, isolation and fear, within a stark musical setting that puts an inventive spin on post-punk and DIY pop. There's the experimental art-pop of Old Man, Young Woman, pairing noisy guitar with eerie riffs that conjure images of clockwork machinery; Chauv with its hypnotic repetitive chug atmospherically overlaid with rattly sound effects and lyrics of terror sung so sweetly; the bleak post-punk of When a Woman Lives Alone; and Beneath My Screen, off-centre lo-fi noisepop that takes me back to my days in the 1990s DIY tapes scene. The single comes with all the extras you'd expect from Sonido Polifonico: two badges and a Bev Seth ceramic crow token with Jackson Pollock-inspired paint splodges in a hand-stamped envelope, a photographic art insert, and a lyric sheet printed on tracing paper, all packaged within a cardboard box. Limited to just 57 copies, only 5 left at the time of writing. Find out more at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
NICK JONAH DAVIS The Drifting/Xochi lathe cut 8" (Sonido Polifonico)
Another beautifully packaged single from Sonido Polifonico, a label that specialises in handmade releases which are complete works of art. This is an 8" single, lathe cut on clear plastic that is heavier than standard vinyl. It comes with an 8 page riso print booklet with abstract art by David Hand, and a photograph of Nick Jonah Davis, all within a hand-stamped, numbered black paper envelope, plus a gold foil-lined black envelope containing badges and a handmade ceramic crow token by Bev Seth. The hand-cut labels are the same both sides so it's not immediately obvious which track is which, but the one I played first features a lilting, meandering guitar melody swathed in echoey effects and accompanied by atmospheric found sounds. The piece transcends genre but has much to appeal to those who love psychedelic music or contemporary folk with experimental undercurrents. On the other side there is a cinematic experimental folk piece opening with a swelling ambient drone and found sounds that conjure up a feeling of distant voices in an underground passageway, creating an eerie ominous mood. The piece then develops into an eclectic guitar composition with melodies spanning British, American and maybe a touch of Far Eastern folk motifs, arranged in a hypnotic psychedelic style. Limited to just 57 copies and sold out immediately; more information on the label and its other releases at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
KANDIDE Big Fish 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Debut single from Kandide, who may be an unfamiliar name, but the list of other bands the members were, or are, in is impressive and reads like something of a who's who of alternative music since the 1970s: Swell Maps, Television Personalities, Househunters, Alternative TV, The Loft, The Weather Prophets, Rose McDowall's band, Subway Sect, Something Pretty Beautiful, Sergeant Buzfuz, and Shock-Headed Peters, to name just a few. Big Fish is improvised around lyrics by Jowe Head, with Jowe's one-of-a-kind gruff vocals offset by Ruth Tidmarsh's strongly melodic vocal harmonies, which culminate in a soaring siren song. The musical setting combines a hypnotic bass line, swirling synth ambience and intense psychedelic guitar improvisation to great effect. Anna Blume is another improvised piece, this time adapted from a poem by Kurt Schwitters. This is an altogether harsher track, with Jowe's vocals taking on a maniacal tone against a backdrop of bass that bobs about at angles, swathed in sheets of solid noise. A highly inventive offering; hopefully there will be more to follow from this band. The single is limited to 300 hand numbered copies on blue vinyl, with full colour insert with art and lyrics, Kandide sticker, and Old Bad Habits sticker. Available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
ADAM GEOFFREY COLE Seasick lathe cut 8" (Sonido Polifonico)
One of my favourite bands in recent years was Trappist Afterland; I was sad to find out that the project's founder Adam Geoffrey Cole would no longer be making music under the Trappist Afterland banner, but very pleased to learn that he had not given up music and would be returning with new releases under his own name. He has a new solo album, Fallowing, out very soon on Sunstone Records, and has also just released this extremely limited 8" lathe cut EP which features Seasick, a song that appears on the CD version of Fallowing but not the vinyl, and three other tracks that are exclusive to this EP.
As always with Sonido Polifonico, this release includes handmade packaging made with considerable care and attention to detail. The 8" lathe cut EP is packaged in a cardboard folder bound with red ribbon, with a sepia photo of Adam and his dog on the front, and on the inside there's seaside scenery printed on overhead projector film. A separate envelope contains two badges and a ceramic crow token brushed with blue glaze, designed by Bev Seth.
Adam Geoffrey Cole's solo songs are not as psychedelic as Trappist Afterland, though the songwriting style is still unmistakably his. Seasick is a new recording of a song co-written with Christian Bennett in 1997; modern songwriting beautifully arranged in folk style with some subtly Eastern hints at times. Death Behind Me and Cocoon are two prime slices of dark folk, with hurdy gurdy providing a mesmeric, atmospheric swirl. Summer Fallows is very lovely pastoral folk, accompanied by an intricate acoustic guitar melody and the relaxing hum of the harmonium.
An utterly amazing EP from one of my very favourite current artists. Limited to just 57 copies, it sold out instantly in physical form, but is still available as a download from trappistafterland.bandcamp.com/album/seasick-e-p
SPLASHING RAINBOWS Numbers 12" (Make Me Happy)
Six song EP on orange vinyl from Splashing Rainbows, the new project of Giorgos Kyriazis, formerly of 1990s indiepop band One Night Suzan. Indiepop only makes up a small part of Splashing Rainbows' sound; the surreal, kaleidoscopic artwork of a pipe organ pumping out swirling rainbows gives hints of what to expect from the music here. One (Is Fine) takes in a bouncy piano rhythm and brass section, the overall feel of the song having shades of psychedelic-era Beatles. Two (Is Right) is eccentric, chirpy pop with a chug-along rhythm that makes me imagine a psychedelic cartoon steam train puffing out rainbow smoke. After the demise of One Night Suzan, Giorgos got involved in classical music, and there are hints of that in Three (Is A Crowd), with theatrical vocals incorporating complex harmonies. Surrealistic lyrics like "Three is a river of tepid tea" are accompanied by an inventive juxtaposition of bombastic prog guitar soloing, airy clarinet and sweet indiepop touches.
Four (Blessings) combines the eccentricity of XTC with hints of the classic era of indiepop, taking on in addition an impressive choral vocal arrangement. Five (Stars) sounds like a vintage show tune accompanied by a gentle, meditative organ melody and soft, airy jazz brass. The EP goes out with a bang with Six (Days), an addictively catchy prog-pop piece punctuated with bursts of squalling guitar noise, counterbalanced by delicate indiepop jangle and classical piano. A highly creative set of songs that grows on me with each listen. Highly recommended. Limited to 200 copies. Contact the label at make-me-happy.bandcamp.com
SHARRON KRAUS & JUSTIN HOPPER Ivory lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Sharron Kraus & Justin Hopper, along with Jane Griffiths, Neal Heppleston and Guy Whittaker, provide us with two musical pieces based on the works of late 19th-early 20th century poet and occultist Victor Neuburg. Sharron Kraus recites Ivory over a musical composition of dreamlike beauty, with hypnotically repeating, twinkling synths, and strings, recorder and backing vocals that soar and flutter like the bees and birds of the poem. Rottingdean, narrated by Justin Hopper, is composed in the old and much missed rhyming style, replete with evocative metaphors of enchantment, music, and rare gems within nature, a truly inspired work of nature mysticism. Its musical accompaniment is similarly beautiful and awe-inspiring, employing recorder, zither, and string section to create an almost hymnal atmosphere that somehow manages to be grand and understated all at once, closing with a crescendo of drums and celebratory vocals. A truly lovely single, limited to just 99 copies, out on a label for whom the visual and tactile experience is just as important as the music, each release coming with a set of extras making for a complete work of art. This single is accompanied by two reproductions of vintage postcards of Rottingdean, a green-flecked ceramic crow token pierced at the top so it can be worn as a pendant, a crow badge, and a badge featuring the floral artwork from the sleeve. Available at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
CHRISTINA CRIMARI Je Suis Une Punke 7" (Old Bad Habits)
CRABBER Greek Wine 7" (Old Bad Habits)
THE HERMITTS Weight of the World 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Christina Crimari (aka Christina Brodie or Queen Christina) brings us two contrasting tracks on blue vinyl, with 80s-inspired sleeve art. Je Suis Une Punke is a kind of electro-punk-pop with arty experimental leanings. It draws from both avant garde music from the post-punk era and dance music circa 1988, but looks just as much to the future as the past. French lyrics are recited over an inventive mix of off-kilter synthpop, punky noise and chug, and electronic riffs and rhythms straight out of a 1980s house track. Frida, an ode to Frida Kahlo, is stylistically different but no less original, bringing together medieval influences and electronic instrumentation. The traditional-inspired tune, with its highly catchy "Viva la vida, viva la Frida" chorus, is complemented by ritualistic chanted backing vocals from Jowe Head (Swell Maps, Television Personalities etc), to great effect. Two hugely inventive, eclectic tracks that are well worth checking out. Limited to 150 copies, with only a handful left at the time of writing.
Crabber, from Hamburg, include former members of The Legendary Bang, Dr König Arthus, and Kristallin. Their three-track 7" features fun artwork showing an ancient Greek statue decked out in 80s dayglo shades and leopard print swimming trunks, having a right old booze-up while surfing. Greek Wine takes its cues from a 1970s song, Griechischer Wein, by Austrian artist Udo Jürgens, though it's really just the subject matter that is similar. It's completely free from the middle-of-the-road, 'easy listening' vibe of the song that inspired it. This is ultramelodic, uplifting pop, with sunny holiday lyrics and a bright 'ba-ba-ba-da' chorus wrapped in a layer of punky fuzz, a real earworm! Climb into my Mind is another slice of tuneful punk-pop, a new version of a track that previously appeared on Crabber's album Who Let the Ducks Out? on Jigsaw Records. They also provide a punked-up cover version of Edward Ball's Controversial Girlfriend, ending with a squalling noisy instrumental section. Limited to 150 hand-numbered copies, with free Crabber sticker and full-colour info/photo insert.
The Hermitts is the new solo project of Matt Hicks of Horowitz. Weight of the World is fuzzy pop with a super-catchy chorus offset by a melancholic edge; past comparisons to the Jesus and Mary Chain make sense here. On the Other Hand combines a chuggy punk-pop rhythm with washes of shoegazey atmospheric noise. Hold Tight is a thrilling burst of noisy pop, having shades of Boyracer, the aforementioned JAMC, and various 90s American indie-rockers and noisepoppers on labels like Matador. Tables Turned continues the American 90s noisepop feel; another band The Hermitts have been compared to is Guided by Voices, and I'm also hearing echoes of that band here. This one is also limited to 150 hand-numbered copies.
The Old Bad Habits Label of Greece continues its role as a prime source of noisy yet tuneful underground pop with The Hermitts and Crabber 7"s, while the Christina Crimari single shows the label's willingness to embrace more off-centre electronic sounds. This label's releases are continually recommended; get them at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
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