GIORGIO TUMA This Life Denied Me Your Love CD (Elefant)
Giorgio Tuma is joined here by a 28 piece backing band including amongst others Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, who provides vocals on two tracks. Sophisticated and atmospheric, the album pulls together aspects of dreampop, sunshine pop, folk, and retro-futurism in a seamless fashion. The Wings of a Loser is gentle dreampop, the woozy, hypnotic feeling coming largely from electronics rather than the wall of glacial guitar noise that characterised the dreampop bands from the early 1990s. Maude Hope brings in folk and sunshine pop elements, with classy orchestration alongside fizzing spacey synth and folky banjo. Foxes Don't Lie is sophisticated 60s-tinged pop ornamented by the whoosh of retro-futuristic synths. Bright Hugs combines elements of laid-back American folk-rock, harmony pop and psychedelic electronica. All These Snowy Days in Fårö II is built around a repeating piano arpeggio, with soaring strings and kettle drums building up to a powerful crescendo. The Holy Warmth is gentle indiepop with an innovative and ambitious arrangement incorporating acoustic guitar, elegant orchestration, and beautiful vocal harmonies, plus a tinge of US folk from the use of banjo. As well as CD, this gentle and reflective album is available as a digital download, or white vinyl limited to 500 copies with free mp3s. Visit www.elefant.com
BARRETT'S DOTTLED BEAUTY Living for the Moment CDR (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
Barrett's Dottled Beauty is a new collaboration between Alan Davidson (Kitchen Cynics) and Gayle Brogan (Pefkin/Electroscope). The album contains two long tracks of experimental psychedelic folk, with main emphasis on the experimental. Eerie, abstract, and at times quite harsh sound effects, hypnotic drones, mindbending sound manipulation and pulsating electronics rub shoulders with delicate folky and medieval-tinged melodies and an echoey, atmospheric rendition of a John Clare poem in Featherless Fools, whilst Sunlight Bathed & Golden Glare (a play on Felt's Sunlight Bathed a Golden Glow perhaps?) brings the folk and psychedelic components further to the forefront whilst still retaining a meandering, abstract, experimental sensibility, creating an end result with much dreamlike, otherworldly beauty about it. Available as a download or CDR from barrettsdottledbeauty.bandcamp.com
REIDGRAVES Lovely As Suspicion CD (Secret Shark)
ReidGraves is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist David Reid (also of The Contrast) and lyricist Ron Graves, whose words are set to music and sung by David. A variety of guest musicians also appear on the album, including The Contrast's Richard Mackman and Thorin Dixon. The lyrics are meaningful and poetic, with plenty of pull-no-punches social commentary guaranteed to shock anyone with a conscience. We're not talking here about gratuitous shock factor for its own sake, but lyrics that act as a loud and piercing wake-up call, the violent imagery designed to jolt the listener into taking notice of the serious and very real issues within. Arses seems to be drawn from Ron's experiences as a psychiatric nurse, Let Down is a harrowing tale of sexting, self harm and suicide, Childcare a brutal depiction of child abuse, and Made My Baby Gag an ironic critique of the sexist male mindset that feels threatened by intelligent women. Musically the album is very eclectic: Arses is acoustic with mournful strings, Let Down and Songs and Beer are country tinged, Elucidation is laid-back electronic pop, Ain't Blues is raw, dirty vintage-style rock, Kent State Massacre is atmospheric with hints of psychedelia, Made My Baby Gag combines elements of 50s rock 'n' roll and 60s harmony pop, I Hear Footsteps brings together classic songwriting with brooding, nightmarish experimental effects, and One Knows and Sign Up opt for an intelligent powerpop/alt-rock approach that's sure to appeal to fans of REM, Subaqwa, or David Reid's other band The Contrast. Not everything here is a comfortable listen, and neither is it supposed to be. You don't listen to songs like Childcare or Let Down to be soothed; they are a painfully real depiction of the tragedy that arises when humanity loses compassion. Prepare to be challenged. More info at www.reidgraves.com
DARKSHIPS Hiraeth and See How the Summer Colt Rides CDRs (Wishing Chair)
Two new albums from Darkships, available as downloads or limited edition CDRs in handmade fold-out paper sleeves. Darkships is the project of Jon Chinn, also featuring various collaborators including Marc Swordfish of Astralasia. Hiraeth brings a diverse set of influences together into a coherent whole. Play the Light is a liquid, hypnotic psych track bookended by experimental soundscaping comprising whooshing and pulsating electronics and found sounds. To You, From Where? is a very inventive piece of song-based yet experimental electronica, incorporating electronically processed voice and atmospheric use of trumpet. Because of the Sun is an instrumental piece that blurs the lines between experimental, prog and spacerock, and is well worth investigating if you enjoy the more experimental sounds to come out of the Stone Premonitions stable. The Westward Path melds funk and jazz with heavy prog rock and vintage style electronica.
Jon describes See How the Summer Colt Rides as "a nod to my post-punk/psych roots". It's certainly that, but not without Darkships' usual willingness to experiment and venture beyond the norm. Silver Fishes is a mix of dark and angular post-punk and experimental electronica. Speak to the Mountain is intense psych-rock with experimental undercurrents. Go Deeper is a kind of ambient/world fusion, with atmospheric vocals from guest singer Phoebe. Out My Tree combines melodic punk and noisy indiepop aspects with inventive use of electronics and even a homage to The Beatles' She Loves You. Fire Wheel is brooding post-punk with hints of dark folk adding to the ominous atmosphere. Counting Sheep mixes post-punk with ethereal electronic accompaniment. Eclectic, innovative, boundary-busting sounds - visit www.wishingchairrecords.co.uk
SENDELICA The Cromlech Chronicles LP (Fruits de Mer/Regal Crabomophone)
Live-in-studio album from Sendelica, released as a limited edition coloured vinyl LP in gatefold sleeve with poster. The Cromlech Suite is a side-long epic, over 20 minutes long, in which chilled-out experimental soundscaping gives way to a liquid mix of guitar and sax that blurs the lines between psych and jazz, whilst space-age synth and a hypnotic groove contribute extra atmospheric texture. Over on side two you get Satori Part 1, an excerpt of a piece originally by the Flower Travellin' Band, that starts with a basis in heavy prog rock, adding jazz flourishes and intense psych-rock aspects. Then there's Vellichor, a laid-back instrumental in which guitar and piano melodies are swathed in washes of airy, meditative synth. Finally there's Zenosyne, a spacerock piece with a melody that hints at Middle Eastern music, balancing blistering guitar work with a laid-back, hypnotic atmosphere. Available from www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
SOUNDS OF NEW SOMA Moebius Tunnel (Tonzonen)
New album from German duo Sounds of New Soma, comprising Dirk Raupach (who runs the Tonzonen label) and Alex Djelassi. The album is available on 180g blue vinyl with poster and download code (limited to 250 copies), very limited vinyl box set with extra memorabilia (just 50 copies of this one), or CD limited to 500 copies, which comes with a bonus track (the bonus track is also included in the digital download). Kosmonautenglück is psychedelic ambient music, relaxing and floaty, bringing together spacey synth whirrs, electronic drones and meandering psych guitar. Subraumverzerrung is chilled-out spacerock with a hypnotic chug. Stech/Apfel brings together an elongated drone-rock piece with a shorter experimental soundscape. Morgengebet is an extended psych-rock piece incorporating a rhythmic electronic groove and atmospheric experimentation. Bonus track Neuland is an effective mix of vintage style electronica and modern ambient music with a psychedelic vibe and a mechanised, space-age chug. Available at www.tonzonen.de
LOVE MACHINE Circles (Tonzonen)
New album from German psych outfit Love Machine, released as limited edition vinyl, CD, or download. Starting with a basis in West Coast psych-rock, the band put their own spin on the genre with additional influences from spacerock, world music, and prog. Vocalist Marcel Rösche has a deep, dramatic vocal style that recalls Jim Morrison or any number of gothic rock singers (though the music itself is definitely not goth!) Rotation of Earth and Love is an effective mix of jangly and spacey sounds; Circles combines intense psych and prog aspects with ethnic rhythms; Starship Traffic bridges the gap between 60s psych and 90s post-rock, with additional use of analogue synths; Gravity intersperses laid-back psych-rock with floaty ambient sections; and epic 10.45 minute closing track In Search of Time has an improvisational quality, bringing in jazzy sax and drumming alongside blistering freeform psych elements and touches of prog. An inventive album with an effective blend of sounds. Available at www.tonzonen.de
MARC ELSTON The Colours They Bring CD (self-released)
Marc Elston, formerly of Bulldozer Crash and The Liberty Ship, has in more recent times been releasing solo home recordings, first under the name of Franklin's Kite and then under his real name. This new 15-track album compiles Marc's solo recordings from various EPs and compilation albums, three of which feature guest appearances from Adriano of Postal Blue. Normandy by Sundown combines the classic indiepop sound with a mellow, bossa nova-tinged atmosphere. Mumble is brilliant catchy janglepop. Fools Like Us is bedroom disco synthpop, putting an underground spin on electronic pop and bypassing the overpolished glitz that comes with the mainstream version of this genre. The Wonder Hour has chiming jangly guitar and airy dreamlike keyboard providing the backdrop for a really lovely indiepop song in the best late 80s/early 90s tradition. The Colours They Bring is uptempo, ultra-melodic noisepop with a punky chug. Other People's Stories is 80s-influenced indiepop with nice use of tambourine, melodica, and atmospheric distorted backing vocals. 2 AM's lyrics are dripping with tension and swathed in a hazy, late-night atmosphere. Final track The Way You Danced With Me is an 80s-style pop number calling to mind Orange Juice (and indeed namechecking Falling and Laughing). This is one of those really superb indiepop albums that reminds me just how much I love this genre. Highly recommended! Available as CD or download from marcelston.bandcamp.com
LAURENCE CAMPLING Everything but the Kitchen Sink CDR (Stone Premonitions)
Laurence Campling started out as a street theatre performer in 1980s England before relocating to USA where he created stage artwork for The Residents, and performed with bands such as Dresden Danse, Popular Mechanics, and Robert Fripp's project The League of Crafty Guitarists. Nowadays he is a solo artist and his current album Everything but the Kitchen Sink is out now on Stone Premonitions. This is an eclectic selection of songs ranging from sparse acoustic singer-songwriter pieces to folk-rock to more proggy and experimental material, but despite its diverse influences, it holds together well as a complete album. Fast Friends is a singer-songwriter piece with some inventive proggy and jazzy touches. Sintra is 1970s folk influenced, with shades of both Martin Carthy and Richard Thompson. Panoramas is another superb folky piece, drawing from UK and US folk, with occasional prog tinges. If I Had a Hammock is a woozy, lopsided experimental folk-rock instrumental. Dogs sets a traditional-style folk melody to a well-crafted and original prog-folk arrangement. Just Like You Said is stripped-down songwriting in the vein of Nick Drake. Rainhead is an instrumental combining shimmering ambient electronics with evocative prog guitar. Available from www.stonepremonitionswebshop.com
VARIOUS The Quietened Village CD (A Year in the Country)
Beautifully presented, in handmade packaging that is a work of art in itself, this album is part of the Year in the Country project, dedicated to "searching for an expression of an underlying unsettledness to the English bucolic countryside dream; an exploration of an otherly pastoralism, the patterns beneath the plough, pylons and amongst the edgelands". This part of the series gains its inspiration from abandoned and submerged villages. The artists come from a variety of musical backgrounds - experimental, neoclassical, underground folk - yet there is a certain aura that is common to all the tracks here, making it hold together as a complete album. Whereas compilations can often sound randomly assembled, this one has a definite sense of purpose, featuring artists with a shared aesthetic.
David Colohan (of United Bible Studies) provides an evocative, filmic soundscape based on gently swelling minimalistic drones and nature sounds. Howlround contributes a piece of aural art bringing together abstract tape manipulations and electronic burblings; if I'd have heard music like this about 20 years ago I doubt I'd have understood it, but nowadays I find it oddly engaging. The Straw Bear Band give us a gentle, reflective instrumental based on acoustic guitar and found sounds. The Soulless Party make mournful neoclassical music with piano, strings and harp. Polypores make brooding experimental music pairing unsettling drones with ritualistic rhythms. Richard Moult (also of United Bible Studies) makes plaintive neoclassical music with experimental and film soundtrack attributes.
The Rowan Amber Mill put a sophisticated classical spin on a traditional-inspired folk tune, the end result being very lovely indeed. Time Attendant's blend of relentless electronic pulses and harsh abstract noises makes for an unsettling yet engaging listen. A Year in the Country, the band behind the label and compilation series, provide an experimental yet melodic electronic piece with an otherworldly air. Sproatly Smith begin with a thought-provoking collage of dreamlike harp, Romantic-era classical music, nature sounds, and what sounds like explosions and gunfire, before launching into an evocative psych-folk song combining 1970s-ish folk songwriting with inventive experimentation. Cosmic Neighbourhood's electronic sound effects replicate the sounds of snoring and deep sleep heavy breathing, alongside tinkling bells and hypnotic vintage organ.
A really impressive album, packed full of original and exciting experimental music with a strong underground spirit. Find out more at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
VARIOUS Fractures CD (A Year in the Country)
The latest installment in the A Year in the Country series will be released on 13th June 2016, with pre-orders starting 30th May onwards. Sharing the same format as its predecessor - a black CDR in a handmade box with string-bound booklet and assorted memorabilia - Fractures takes as its inspiration "the year 1973; a time when there appeared to be a schism in the fabric of things, a period of political, social, economic and industrial turmoil, when 1960s utopian ideals seemed to corrupt and turn inwards". Eerie psych-folk music, folk horror movies, TV shows "imbued with a strange, otherly grittiness": these were all starting to be woven into British culture around the early 1970s, and it is is this juxtaposition of dark fantasy and otherworldliness with harsh reality that the artists here are taking as their starting point.
Circle/Temple (including members of The Straw Bear Band and The Owl Service) provide a two part piece that begins as an unsettling soundscape based around menacing drones, before giving way to a delicate yet slightly eerie electronic folk melody. Sproatly Smith set a vintage-style psych-folk song to a mix of lilting Mellotron, sci-fi synth whirrs, found sounds, and film samples. Keith Seatman provides a soundscape that combines chilling, horror filmic drones with whooshing electronic bleepage straight out of a 1970s sci-fi movie. Listening Center make vintage-inspired electronic music combining melodic and experimental aspects. The British Space Group's piece features a deep, foreboding synth melody along with more of that 1970s sci-fi bleepery. The Hare and the Moon featuring Alaska/Michael Begg provide an experimental piece incorporating neoclassical and ritualistic elements and exuding a sense of eerie, otherworldly beauty.
Time Attendant contribute a piece of dark, abstract electronica. The Rowan Amber Mill appear with a delightfully evocative piece that seamlessly combines folk, classical, electronic, experimental, psychedelic and world music into a whole new genre of its own. Polypores contribute a chilling slice of experimental electronica with the suitably ominous title A Perfect Place for an Accident. The label's in-house recording project A Year in the Country appear with a film soundtrack-esque soundscape with an unsettling, foreboding atmosphere. David Colohan (of United Bible Studies) appears with an undulating soundscape of drones and primal, ecstatic chanting.
Another excellent snapshot of current experimental music, showing the coexistence of darkness, strangeness, and profound beauty. Available at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
BENE GESSERIT Eccentric???? CD (EE)
Bene Gesserit is a long-running Belgian duo making a particularly exciting variety of experimental music that creates the perfect balance of musical and experimental components, having an inventive, exploratory, genre-hopping approach without sacrificing melody, rhythmic structure, or sense of purpose. Lobotomized pairs heavy art-rock riffage with crazed cackling. The Frightening Zone is an effective mix of intelligent pop, dreamlike atmospheric sound effects, intricate rock guitar, and church organ. Chaton is like a more off-centre version of psych-folk, featuring recited lyrics alongside ethereal wordless vocals. The House of the Rising Song sets archaic-sounding, darkly atmospheric chanting to fierce noise guitar, coming across like a heavier and more overtly experimental version of Dead Can Dance. You Can Be Your Own Shrink features surreal roaring & shrieking vocals over an effective mix of neoclassical piano and electronic drums. Perdus combines breathy, sophisticated pop balladry with glitchy electronica. C'est Loué!! features soothing, floaty music with electronic orchestration and angelic choir vocals, paired deliberately incongruously with shouting and laughter. An extra layer of humour comes from the bilingual pun - the song's title is French for "it's rented", but sounds like "sail away", a probable reference to, and absurdist reinvention of, Enya's similarly floaty hit single Orinoco Flow. The album is a fine example of the free-thinking creativity to come out of that part of the current underground music movement that has its roots in the 1980s tapes scene, and is well worth investigating for anyone with an open mind about music. Available at www.eetapes.be
LE SUPER HOMARD Maple Key (Mega Dodo)
A positive, cheery, retro-inspired electronic pop album combining influences from sunshine pop, baroque pop, vintage film themes and incidental music, lounge music, early electronica, and hints of folk and jazz. There's nice use of harpsichord, fizzing retro-futuristic synths, and electronic orchestration, and optimistic lyrics about summer holidays, the need to escape drab jobs and become immersed in nature and the countryside, floating and spinning like a maple key... The retro-futurist, film soundtrack elements recall bands such as Stereolab, L'Augmentation, Pram, Broadcast, or Fugu, plus there are things in common with some of the light and airy pop that's come out on Elefant Records in recent times. The music is uplifting whilst also having an atmospheric, dreamlike feel. Available on CD or limited edition white vinyl 10" from www.mega-dodo.co.uk
TÍR NA NÓG Live at the Half Moon (Mega Dodo)
Last year saw the release of The Dark Dance, Tír na nÓg's first new studio album in 42 years. Their live performance at the album's launch at the Half Moon in Putney was recorded and has just been released on limited edition vinyl, as well as CD and download, by Mega Dodo. The set comprised a mixture of Tír na nÓg's classic tracks from the 1970s alongside new material from The Dark Dance. Tír na nÓg are often tagged as prog folk, psych folk, or alt folk. There is truth in all of those descriptions, though I also find that some of their material (e.g. Time is Like a Promise and You in Yellow) has a certain sombreness that recalls the neofolk/dark folk style, particularly that point on the continuum in which neofolk and psych folk overlap to a considerable degree, as heard in the work of bands such as In Gowan Ring. Looking Up is a rockier track with prog elements and flowing, psychedelic guitar work. Ricochet blends psych-folk, Middle Eastern influences, and a brooding atmosphere in a similar way to Stone Breath, whilst adding raw and intense rock elements. I Have Known Love and The Lady I Love both start with a basis in American style folk, combining that with atmospheric, spacey sound effects and bluesy 1970s rock respectively, whilst Free Ride is a kind of hypnotic, psychedelic blues with some nicely mood-altering rhythmic percussion. The CD includes an extra bonus track, The White Horses, a really lovely acoustic psych-folk number that brings to mind the aforementioned In Gowan Ring. Superb stuff - available only at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
OCTOPUS SYNG Hollow Ghost/Rochelle Salt (Mega Dodo)
New album from Finnish psych outfit Octopus Syng, available as blue vinyl LP limited to 500 copies, CD, or download, as of 29th July 2016. Carbon Dust and Latin Romances 1927 begins as an eerie experimental piece with a film soundtrack feel, before giving way to a psychedelic interpretation of Spanish guitar music. Woman recalls 60s psych-pop, whilst adding a folky touch to the melody. Echoes from the Past Centuries is a superb track that sounds like authentic vintage psych, merged with a spooky, dramatic, horror film-ish atmosphere from the use of organ. Surrealistic Room is aptly titled, with whimsical lyrics and a choppy-changey song structure that bounces from theme to theme just like a series of dreams. Melancholy of Delight sets philosophical lyrics to a melody suitably suggestive of deep, sad thoughts, accompanied by dramatic, evocative orchestration. Belle and Ville is woozy and whimsical and partway between folk and theatre music. Today's Portrait is thoughtful and honest songwriting with a minimal and slightly eerie arrangement. Final track Reverberating Garden Number 7 combines retro-futuristic experimentation with dreamlike psych-pop. A fine mixture of whimsy, introspection, and dark-edged drama, from a band who put their own free-thinking twist on the classic 60s psychedelic sound. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
ALICE KAT s/t (ZyNg)
As well as the cassette format the ZyNg label is known for, they have now branched out into vinyl. This is ZyNg's first vinyl release, with more to follow in future. The tape (limited to 100 copies) is packaged in a full colour fold out sleeve with lyrics, and the LP (limited to 300 copies) is pressed on heavyweight yellow vinyl and comes with a card insert featuring lyrics and photos, as well as a download code. A separate download version is also available. Alice Katugampola, also known as Alice Kat, is a talented young songwriter with an honest, confessional lyrical style, and a musical approach that is influenced just as much by punk as by stripped-down acoustic soul-bearing. Chasing Lines is partway between indiepop and that sort of bouncy, catchy guitar-pop you get in American teen movie soundtracks, whilst the introspective, heart-on-sleeve lyrics provide extra depth. Is It Too Late? is energetic punky noisepop, interspersed with minimal acoustic sections. Be Strong is a melancholic and minimalistic singer-songwriter piece with some nice use of chiming glockenspiel. Punk Rock Woke Me Up is a catchy, punky noisepop ode to the life-affirming power of music. Small Talk is an introspective, melancholic indiepop song with a nicely chiming guitar sound and effective use of vocal harmonies. Like Ghosts is powerful punky alt-rock full of raw emotional energy. The album ends with a home recorded hidden track providing an energetic blast of DIY attitude. The album pairs the raw honesty of underground music with a catchiness and energy that really ought to make Alice Kat break through to a wider audience. Visit www.zyngtapes.co.uk
THE SUNCHARMS s/t CD (Cloudberry)
Out now on Cloudberry Records' Cloudberry Cake Kitchen series of reissued/archival recordings is this 14-song compilation from early 1990s Sheffield band The Suncharms. All the songs from their two EPs on Wilde Club Records, which I bought back in the 90s, are here along with six demo tracks which are new to me. The album is nicely packaged with sleeve notes on the history of the band, and memorabilia pictures including a fanzine that featured them alongside loads of other familiar names from the DIY indiepop scene of the time, such as Librarian, The Marigolds, The Bedflowers, The Vicarage Garden, etc, and a music press cutting in which The Suncharms' self-titled EP was reviewed alongside The Sea Urchins' Please Don't Cry, the first record I ever heard from The Sea Urchins, who were soon to become my very favourite band. This is all very nostalgic and meaningful stuff for me, dating as it does from the exact time that I was discovering the world of indiepop.
The EP tracks are characterised by a juxtaposition of gentle melodies and hushed vocals with relentlessly noisy guitars, producing an overall sound that bridges the gap between the noisier end of indiepop and shoegaze. Occasionally I hear aspects of The Suncharms' sound that may even appeal to the psychedelic crowd, such as how Reflections begins and ends with some beautifully atmospheric moments with an almost psych-folk quality, and Time Will Tell includes some drawn-out, fuzzy guitar work that is unusually rockish for a band who were, and continue to be, embraced by the indiepop scene, a musical community with a general reputation for looking askance at such things as guitar solos. The Suncharms weren't interested in playing by the rules of any specific scene, they just played the music they enjoyed, a 'be yourself' attitude that is deserving of applause.
On the whole however, The Suncharms' music isn't particularly psychedelic or rock, much less folk. One I See is a fine slice of buzzsaw pop that would have fitted right in on the Subway label, combined with lashings of swirling wah-wah. There are some really great noisepop songs here like Tranquil Day and Walk Away, whilst She Feels is a full-on shoegaze track that should quite frankly have made The Suncharms just as popular as all the big names from that scene, and Spaceship has a good balance of fuzzy dreampop haze and powerpop oomph. Most of the demos show a different side to The Suncharms' sound, tending towards being janglier, less shoegazey, and falling more squarely into the indiepop category. Sort it Out is fantastic late 80s/early 90s jangly indiepop, the kind that always brings a smile to my face. Verge of Tears is a catchy indiepop song about a sensitive and emotional man, set to a pairing of jangle and crunchy, fuzzy noise. Into the Sun is brilliant tuneful noisepop in the best late 80s/early 90s style. On Reflection is introspective and delicate indiepop interspersed with a wall of swirling noise that hints at the shoegaze sound that would be developed further on their vinyl EPs.
Whether you're into jangly or noisy indiepop or shoegaze, this album is an absolute must. It's also great to know that The Suncharms have reformed and are currently writing and rehearsing new material. Let's hope there will be more new releases from them soon! In the meantime, the compilation album can be obtained from www.cloudberryrecords.com. If you're in the UK, Vinyl Exchange has a limited number of copies in stock.
THE CORNER LAUGHERS Matilda Effect (Mystery Lawn)
Fantastic indiepop album with an uplifting, summery atmosphere. Whilst undeniably falling into the indiepop category, it is a modern and inventive take on the style, that is unafraid to incorporate aspects of other genres, and does not sound like a carbon copy of 1980s bands. Fairytale Tourist is a bouncy mix of indiepop and Motown. The Girl, America is sunny pop with a powerpop kick, written by Anton Barbeau. Octavia A is sweet, catchy and summery pop with lots of la-la-las, combining ukulele, cosmic synth and gutsy powerpop touches. Sophie in the Streets of Stockholm is uptempo pop pairing guitars with shimmering, bubbling synths and hiding a tinge of melancholy beneath its sprightly exterior. Midsommar is a super-catchy pop song filled with mummers, megaliths and druids, accompanied by a luxurious string arrangement and twinkling glockenspiel. I love this song, it's a real feel-good track! Martha (Cincinnati, 1914) has a unique sound in which an old-timey, music hall-y song complete with plinky-plonky upright piano is combined with full-on guitar soloing that sounds straight out of a Queen song, yet despite both of these decidedly non-indiepop attributes, it still manages to not sound out of place in an indiepop setting. Good Hope takes on board a reggae-ish rhythm and country-ish slide guitar alongside the lively pop aspects. Despite the songs' sunny overtones, there is a serious message behind the lyrics. The 'Matilda Effect' of the title refers to the practice of downplaying the achievements of female scientists, and you will find lyrical references to women such as Henrietta Leavitt, an astronomer whose late 19th/early 20th century work has been overshadowed by that of males. The album is as much a feminist statement as it is an entertaining set of pop songs. Find out more at www.cornerlaughers.com and www.mysterylawn.com
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Golden Omens double CD (The Hip Replacement)
Seventh album from prolific Cardiff psych band Soft Hearted Scientists, released as a double CD on 8th July 2016. Comprising a mixture of homemade and studio recorded tracks, Golden Omens continues to demonstrate the witty lyrical style and inventive approach to psych-pop and psych-folk that the Soft Hearted Scientists are known for. Shiver Me Timbers is well crafted, intelligent, off-centre psych-pop with a multi-part song structure incorporating a super-catchy chorus. Rue the Day is dark-edged psych-folk meets quirky pop and spacey synth music, with a barbed lyrical wit. Zeds is off-kilter DIY acoustic psych-pop, the lyrics shifting from a potted summary of the Oedipus myth to hibernating in a cardboard box to escape the British winter. Helicopters of Habershon Street is haunted psych-folk ornamented by vibraphone and eerie vintage electronics. Surferella, "a theme tune for a fictional surf goddess", puts a psychedelic spin on surf music. Glimpse! is baroque pop with eerie folky touches. The Missing Mountains Song is innovative DIY pop inspired by a longing for the Welsh mountains whilst stranded in Bethnal Green. Cherry Blossom Velvet Vision Shield My Mind From Broken Glass is eccentric psychedelic folk sounding rather like the Incredible String Band having borrowed a synth from some spacerock outfit. In addition to the main songs, the album is punctuated by evocative instrumental interludes with titles like 27 Seconds in Antarctica, Imaginary Film Scene #1 and On a Pathway Darkly, which aptly describe the atmospheres the pieces create. Find out more at www.softheartedscientists.com
NOVANTA Hello We're Not Enemies cassette (Seashell)
Novanta, meaning 'ninety', was formed by Manfredi Lamartina as a homage to 1990s indie-rock, post-rock and shoegaze. Whilst still retaining these influences, the band's sound has expanded to incorporate both signs of looking back further still to the 1980s, and looking forward to the future with an inventive experimental approach. In keeping with the band's original intent, the packaging of Novanta's new cassette album looks convincingly like an artefact of the 90s tapes underground, with its monochrome photocopied inlay and plain black cassette that looks identical to the ones used by some 1990s tape labels including my own Bliss label. Whilst essentially a solo project, Manfredi is joined here by a number of other artists including Claudio Cataldi and In Every Dream a Nightmare Waits' Ian Bonnar.
Sonder is a dark, swirling mix of shoegaze, post-punk and synthwave. Goðafoss, taking its name from the Icelandic waterfall, starts with a basis in 1990s-style indie-rock and adds Sigur Rós-ish atmospherics in further reference to Iceland. Mike is an excellent collaboration with Claudio Cataldi, in which early 90s lo-fi indie-rock meets vast, shimmering dreampop. Tell a Story is inventive experimental pop, combining the ethereal wall of sound approach of dreampop with floating, soaring vocals and nicely off-centre electronics. Akureyri, the second track here to take its name from a place in Iceland, is an innovative instrumental piece incorporating elements of neoclassical, film soundtrack, glitchy DIY electronica, and dreampop. Blue Lagoon, featuring Ian Bonnar, is an expansive and atmospheric track from the darker side of dreampop, which would fit right in on the Projekt or Silber labels. Melted Eyes is an original interpretation of dreampop, starting as a laid-back and ethereal piece based around drones, synths and piano, before bringing in a fizzing DIY disco-pop section that works surprisingly well in a dreampop context.
Novanta is a band that has far exceeded its original aim of making music as a tribute to the 1990s alternative music scene. Unafraid to travel across multiple genre boundaries, this new album puts an inventive and freethinking spin on dreampop. The tape, released by Claudio Cataldi's Seashell label, is limited to 50 copies, with the album also being available as a download. Visit seashellrecords.bandcamp.com
MOSCOW CIRCUS Resounding CD (Echolocation)
Moscow Circus were originally formed in the 1980s and wrote the songs on Resounding between 1987 and 1991. Various things got in the way of them recording the songs at the time, but the band reformed in 2008 and have now finally recorded and released their debut album. Timebomb is melodic indie rock with a dark post-punk touch. Bleed for You is an effective mix of intense emotional songwriting, flowing psychedelic guitar work, and atmospheric spacey synth. Clarity drapes the darker, harder-edged side of 1980s indie pop in mindbending psychedelic effects. Princess Rainbow is an excellent slice of psychedelic powerpop. Ex Genius is spiky 80s powerpop, catchy and energetic. Between the Lines is great indie pop with an authentic 1980s feel, incorporating retro organ (perhaps a Vox or Farfisa). A well-crafted album that pulls together aspects of indie rock and pop, psychedelia, vintage synth music, and the brooding atmospheres and emotional urgency of post-punk into a coherent whole. Find out more at www.moscowcircus.co.uk
INDICA Stone Future Hymns LP (Tonzonen)
Indica was founded in Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia in 2012 by Jayesh Talati. After undergoing a series of changes in personnel, the band has now settled into a stable line-up and released their debut album, Stone Future Hymns. A digital version is already available, and the album is due for imminent release on limited edition 180g vinyl on Tonzonen Records, in a choice of black or green/lilac vinyl, both of which also come with a download code, sticker, and band photo. Indica start with a basis in doom metal, a genre that would normally be off topic for Aquamarine, whilst adding psychedelic influences that make their music stand out from the metal crowd. The album comprises five tracks between 5 and 16+ minutes long, the music characterised by a combination of doomy riffage and intense, impassioned vocals with whooshing, whirring and bubbling spacerock electronics, and guitar solos which whilst still heavy, are of a more flowing style associated more with psych-rock than metal. Om begins as hypnotic, chilled out and spiritual psych-rock, before giving way to thundering, heavy guitar, crashing cymbals and harsh, screamy vocals. Slow Burner is a multi-part piece in which sections based around a clean guitar sound and atmospheric, deep-space electronics are interspersed with doomy, heavy guitar and pained vocals belting out lyrics of madness and fear. The album is miles away from the folk and indiepop sounds that are closest to my heart, but I appreciate Jayesh and co's desire to put their own stamp on metal, completely bypassing the formulaic approach of many others in the genre. Available at www.tonzonen.de
PALM SPRINGS No Love is Ever Lost LP (Random Acts of Vinyl)
Palm Springs are based around songwriters D C Cane and J Russo, who are joined here by a number of guest musicians including Paul Pascoe (who founded Beat Hotel with Arash Torabi, and has also worked with Barry Adamson), Kate Gerrard (The Delta Bell), and Sally Megee (Fire Eyes). Their new album No Love is Ever Lost is released as a limited edition vinyl LP or download on their own Random Acts of Vinyl label. The LP comes with striking monochrome photographic artwork and lyric sheet.
The Knife Twists brings together sparse acoustic guitar with unsettlingly atmospheric ambient effects as befitting the dark lyrical sentiment. Come Back Home to Me combines the bleakness of post-punk with a sophisticated, art music touch. Hallowed Ground is stylish pop with an ethereal atmosphere, incorporating aspects of dreampop and electronica. Wild is the River is innovative, soulful electronic pop. Lest We Forget is based around plaintive piano and atmospheric drones, the arrangement being minimalistic yet having a cinematic 'bigness' about it. The Back of You is an inventive track that recalls, yet transcends, dreampop and post-rock, and incorporates some effective use of finger piano. No Love Lost is intelligent and innovative electronic pop that thrums and sparkles. Winterval is hushed piano balladry accompanied by cello and timpani, having an impressive neoclassical/film soundtrack-esque sound. The album ends with Last Rites, a harsh yet mesmerising instrumental snippet with experimental and soundtrack attributes. An impressive, sophisticated and original mix of sounds on this album - get it at
VARIOUS The Quietened Bunker CD (A Year in the Country)
The Quietened Bunker is the latest in A Year in the Country's series of themed compilations, this one taking as its inspiration the now abandoned/decommissioned bunkers from the Cold War era, and "the faded but still present memory of associated Cold War dread, of which they are stalwart but mouldering symbols". As with previous albums in the series, it comes with carefully crafted handmade packaging with an admirable attention to detail. Keith Seatman and Panabrite each provide a slice of pulsing, retro-futuristic electronica. Grey Frequency's Drakelow Tunnels is comprised of desolate drones like wind whipping through a crumbling building, menacing hums and echoes, and a repeated three-note melody loaded with foreboding. A Year in the Country, the band behind the label, combine neoclassical/soundtrack-esque piano music with woozy, feverish electronic effects. Polypores make experimental ambient music with a combined sense of menace and surrealism. Listening Center combines music reminiscent of 1970s synth pioneers with a darkly experimental edge. Time Attendant contributes a piece of experimental electronica with a mechanised whirr. Unknown Heretic, a decidedly non-folky offshoot of The Owl Service, provide a bleak and brutal noise piece in which searing guitars are employed to create a sound akin to sheet metal being sliced in half with a chainsaw - yet underneath all this harshness there is still a sense of melody, rhythm and atmosphere. David Colohan of United Bible Studies contributes a soundtrack-esque piece that is stark yet beautiful, a sense of hope shining through the abandonment like flowers arising triumphantly through crumbling concrete. Find out more at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
RUSALNAIA Time Takes Away CD (Cambrian)
Second album from Sharron Kraus and Gillian Chadwick's project Rusalnaia, produced by Michael Tanner (Plinth, United Bible Studies). Cast a Spell is structured as if to represent the build-up and culmination of a magic spell. It is darkly beautiful psych-folk with hypnotic, ritualistic, recited backing vocals, bursting into a wild crescendo of intense guitars and ecstatic cries. Take Me Back is another superb psych-folk piece with intertwined twin vocals and that blend of loveliness and eeriness that characterises the best examples of this genre. The Love I Want is a traditional-inspired folk song set to a hypnotic, meandering, psychedelic arrangement. The Beast is heavy folk-rock with a dark intensity. The Honeymoon is Over is a delicate yet heady track with a vintage acid folk vibe. Time Takes Away introduces a 1960s psych-pop touch alongside the folk elements. There's a catchy, uplifting melody accompanied by swirling organ and soaring recorder solos. The overall feel of this track makes me think it could almost be a song by The Petals. A superb album, very highly recommended! Available at cambrianrecords.com/music
BENE GESSERIT/M.A.L./ALICE JUST/KOSMOSE 4in1 vol 4 cassette (Insane Music)
Fourth volume in a series started in 1982 and revived thirty years later. The formats of each volume have varied over the years, moving from cassette to vinyl to CD, but this latest volume returns to the series' roots, being released on cassette with A3 black and white poster. A free CDR can also be included in the package at the buyer's request, which includes the material from the tape plus computer data comprising pictures and historical material on each band. BeNe GeSSeRiT appear with six tracks, including the warped classical/electro-pop/experimental noise combination The iNSaNe QueeN, the chant-based experimental track MaM MaMMa, the eccentric ethereal pop ReST iN PieCeS, and the spooky, experimental sci-fi rock of éPiSoDe 8, éPiLoGue (MoRT De L'HéRoïNe). M.A.L. is the solo project of Daniel Malempre, also of Sic, Kosmose, Subject, and Human Flesh. There are two M.A.L. tracks here, which combine elements of psych-rock, spacerock, prog, experimental, and electronic music. Alice Just appears with four tracks which set her recited vocals to a variety of musical backdrops: the floaty, relaxing synth music of La Pluie Tombe, the rhythmic cello and music box-like glockenspiel of Il Marchant dans les Rues, and the retro-futuristic, minimal synth sounds of Ma Robe de Mariée and Je Ne Dis Pas. The final piece here is a 14+ minute track from the archives of 1970s band Kosmose, which combines spacey, hypnotic psych-rock with a strong improvisational, experimental, harsh and noisy spirit akin to industrial music, making them one of the pioneering outfits of that latter genre. Find out more by emailing alainneffe [AT] yahoo [DOT] fr
OG Out of the Darkness LP (self-released)
This album is subtitled A collection of illustrated songs, inspired by the drawings of Wayne Anderson. The lavish gatefold sleeve features Wayne's astonishing fairytale-esque surreal art on the front and inner panels, making for one of the most striking examples of album packaging I have seen in a long while. Multi-instrumentalist oG is joined here by a number of other musicians including Will Z, whose work has appeared in the pages of Aquamarine on previous occasions. The tracks here draw from diverse influences whilst holding together as a cohesive album, the music perfectly complementing the amazing artwork. Moloch is spooky occult psychedelia tinged with laid-back piano jazz. Joy of a Boy is happy-go-lucky janglepop with triumphant bursts of brass. Imma and the Owl is dreamlike baroque psych-pop. Snake King is a heavy rocking track taking in aspects of psych, spacerock, funk, angular prog, and dark experimental music. The Five Keys of Spring is superb psych-folk, combining a medieval-inspired melody with classical sophistication. Mechanical Flamingo is a surreal experimental piece blending flamenco with the chugs and whirrs of Victorian machinery. Every Number is a creative mixture of vintage-style rock and ethereal, dreamlike, experimental psychedelia. The evocatively titled Through the Tree-Ear is a great psych instrumental that is intense, rhythmic and inventive. A greatly impressive album both musically and visually; highly recommended! Available at
SIMON FELTON Return to Easton Square CD (Pink Hedgehog)
Last year Simon Felton (also of Garfields Birthday and Wilson) released his confessional solo album Emotional Feedback. Now he returns with this new album, which shares the homemade recording techniques and personal lyrical approach of its predecessor and as such is considered a sequel or companion to that album. Will You Be There (By My Side) is a work of great beauty, setting melancholic lyrics to a sophisticated piano and string arrangement. Alibi features a 1980s-style indiepop melody and jangly guitar to match, alongside classy piano and vocal harmonies. Goodbye (Again) is mellow psych-tinged pop with a 1960s feel. It Must Be (A Nightmare) is an effective blend of early 1980s synthpop and 1960s psych and harmony-pop touches. You and Me is ultra-melodic powerpop reminiscent of Garfields Birthday. Whilst this is a homemade album, and one which Simon considers to be essentially a collection of demos, it is actually a well-crafted set of songs with a level of sophistication to rival that of many more famous artists. The songs hold together cohesively as a complete album, and have the potential to appeal to fans of indiepop and credible mainstream music from the 60s and 80s alike. Well worth checking out - visit www.pinkhedgehog.com
ICARUS PEEL Forget-Me-Not Under Pussy Willow (Mega Dodo)
The Honey Pot's Icarus Peel returns with a new solo album, the quintessentially English artwork (rolling hills on the front, parish noticeboard on the back) setting the scene for the music within. Forget-Me-Not is appealingly eccentric psych-pop with a distinctly folky influence and plenty of musical twists and turns. Planting People blends bleak and smoky American blues-rock with a very English observational/biographical lyrical style. It's Raining has an authentically 1960s approach, with shades of The Move and The Who. We Came We Saw is another track that filters American genres - blues and rock 'n' roll - through an English lens. Catch Your Breath is psych-pop with chiming guitar, atmospheric echoey vocals and dreamlike musical effects. Melody May is gentle psych-pop, sparsely arranged with shimmering bells and ethereal keyboards. The album is released on 7th October 2016 as a 180g vinyl LP limited to 250 copies, or 4 CD set limited to 100 copies which comprises all four of Icarus Peel's solo albums in a handmade wooden box; the CD version also comes with bonus track Auntie Powders Her Nose, previously released on the Barnburner EP. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
PALM SPRINGS No Hurt Like a Broken Heart and The Hope that Kills You LPs (Random Acts of Vinyl)
Since reviewing Palm Springs' latest album No Love is Ever Lost, the band were kind enough to send me their two previous albums, 2006's No Hurt Like a Broken Heart and 2009's The Hope that Kills You. All three album covers feature striking, evocative black and white photography resembling movie stills; they also use the same font and general layout across all three sleeves, giving an instantly recognisable and well-defined visual image to their material.
No Hurt Like a Broken Heart is characterised by a sophisticated yet understated kind of pop music, employing cinematic orchestration in a delicate, tasteful manner, and incorporating lyrics and melodies imbued with a deep melancholy, providing an atmosphere that is darkly beautiful. The Hope that Kills You continues in a similar vein, including the delicate beauty of No More Shall We Be, the 60s-tinged orchestrated pop balladry of Still Life, the well-crafted janglepop of There is Nothing Left to Love, the bleak yet hopeful Bury Me Not, and the catchy, anthemic track Free Atlas, which brings in a noisy kick alongside 60s-style vocal harmonies and the stylish orchestration this band is known for. Excellent stuff - available at www.randomactsofvinyl.co.uk
ANDY B The Games You Play CD (Pastime)
Sixth studio album from retro indiepop singer-songwriter Andy B, also of National Pastime and The Thought Clouds. The album comprises 12 previously unrecorded songs written over a 30 year period, including the tracks from the three recent singles released as tasters for this album. Andy B's music is firmly rooted in the classic era of indiepop, with influences such as Sarah Records, the C86 scene, Television Personalities, and early Primal Scream. Many of the tracks on this album are melancholic and introspective, with the sort of raw honesty that typified much of the indiepop that was around when I first got into the scene. All Out of Luck has that juxtaposition of uptempo catchiness and melancholic lyrical mood that's often found in classic indiepop, and a DIY spirit reminiscent of The Haywains or any number of C86 outfits. On Top of the World breaks out of the brooding sadness that characterises much of Andy's songwriting: a positive, triumphant piece full of sunny weather, celebrating down the pub, and thumbing one's nose at all the people who have proved disappointing or annoying. It's always great to hear music from artists with a firm dedication to vintage indiepop, and this album is well worth investigating for fans of this genre. The album is available on CD at
pastimerecords.webs.com, and can be downloaded at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com
VARIOUS On New Horizons vol III cassette (ZyNg Tapes)
Third installment of ZyNg Tapes' On New Horizons compilation series, released for this year's Cassette Store Day. The tape has a slick, professional layout, with on-body printing and full colour fold-out sleeve with info on the artists, and comes with a download code. Echolines have a multifaceted sound that brings together emotional and melodic songwriting with a noisy thrash and electronic effects. The Exes play spiky, angular underground rock with an exciting sound. Gray/Bliss appear with a melodic song taking in elements of folk, psych-rock and intelligent pop, that has left me wanting to hear more from them. Savage Goth were responsible for one of my favourite cassettes on ZyNg last year, and they return here with a superb ethereal dreampop track with shimmering guitars and evocative electronics. The Nosuns make scratchy and rattly bedroom noisepop that's a lot of fun. Bubamara have an original sound that mixes Russian and Greek traditional music with ska and pop. Fractions combine synthpop with the atmospheric nature of dreampop. You Are the Dead make a hypnotic yet energetic mix of spacerock and pounding electronic dance rhythms. A fine snapshot of underground talents from northern England and beyond; find out more at www.zyngtapes.co.uk
AUTUMN OF PÆKWARD Cern LP (Tonzonen)
Autumn of Pækward is the recording project of Leipzig-based musician Jochen Koch. The album Cern, which takes its name from the particle physics research lab, is pressed on heavyweight clear or black vinyl packaged in a smart matte sleeve with full colour glossy poster, sticker, and download code. Canteen is cinematic ambient music with ecstatic chant vocals, atmospheric drones and orchestration. In Wardrobe, harsh noise gives way to ethereal drones, electronic rhythms, and soundtrack-like orchestral music. Director's Office combines both shimmering and menacing drones with an intense rock sound that bridges the gap between spacerock and prog. Cupboard juxtaposes soothing neoclassical drone with harsh, glitchy beats. Attic begins with jagged vibrating drones generating an ominous mood, before morphing into a post-rock piece with melodic staccato guitar and crashing drums and cymbals, and then introducing some completely unexpected black metal-esque shrieking. The album ends with Collider, a dreamlike, filmic piece combining found sounds, drones, plaintive piano and ethereal vocals. An excellent album of experimental cinematic composition, unafraid to incorporate new and original ideas. Available at www.tonzonen.de
THE ORANGE DROP Stoned in Love LP/CD (Mega Dodo)
The Orange Drop are a neo-psych band from Philadelphia, whose album Stoned in Love is out now on Mega Dodo as an orange vinyl LP limited to 250 copies, or CD. Juniper Pearl is mellow, jangly, atmospheric pop that's sure to appeal just as much to fans of indiepop and dreampop as those into the psych scene. The Curse of Kukaku combines the laid-back sounds of late 60s Californian folk-rock with the cosmic whoosh of spacerock, and intense, sprawling, heady psychedelic guitar work. Make it Her, Forever is an effective blend of sitar psych and heavy shoegaze. Julia Dream is ethereal psych-folk with experimental sound effects and soaring flute. Substance D is feverish and eerie psychedelic experimentation. If You Feel It is raw, bluesy garage rock with searing psychedelic guitar soloing. Whilst drawing from eclectic musical sources, the album is shot through with a psychedelic atmosphere from start to finish. Impressive stuff. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk
VARIOUS Plankton CD (Fruits de Mer)
A while ago, Record Collector magazine released a vinyl compilation album of Fruits de Mer's early releases, entitled Plankton. The LP has long since sold out, and now Fruits de Mer have reissued Plankton on limited edition CD. Whilst FdM has since diversified into original material, it started off as a covers label with current artists reinterpreting classic tracks from the 1960s and 70s, and it is this side of the label that you will find on Plankton.
Schizo Fun Addict provide a 70s action movie soundtrack/mariachi/spacerock version of George Martin's Theme One. Vibravoid do a brilliant version of Amon Duul II's Eye Shaking King, with vibrating, echoey vocals, blistering electronic noise and a hypnotic bass rhythm. Alison O'Donnell, an important name from the world of acid folk and electric folk, who was first known for her work in the 1970s with Mellow Candle and Flibbertigibbet, and has since collaborated with various underground folk bands including The Owl Service, Firefay, and United Bible Studies, appears here with a beautiful atmospheric reimagining of Nick Drake's Day is Done. Mark Fry, another cult name from 70s acid folk, teams up with Nick Franglen to provide a new version of one of his own songs, Dreaming With Alice, which is ethereal and dreamlike with a slightly eerie undertone - superb stuff.
Us and Them contribute a really lovely version of Home to Stay by Tudor Lodge, in which a delicate acoustic guitar arrangement is augmented by evocative, atmospheric keyboards. The Chemistry Set's version of Del Shannon's Silver Birch brings together 60s pop, Western movie soundtracks, hard-hitting psych-rock, and surreal, floaty psychedelic effects. Hausfrauen Experiment appear with a version of Brian Eno's Baby's On Fire, an inventive combination of vintage synthpop, new wave, dance music, psych-rock, and experimentation. Finally, there is a bonus track not listed on the cover, The Pretty Things' live version of Midnight to Six Man, a raw and vigorous slice of 1960s garage rock which was originally included with the LP as a bonus single-sided 7". An excellent compilation of psych-rock and psych-folk, available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
THE LUCKY STRIKES The Motion and the Moving On (Harbour Song)
Fifth album from The Lucky Strikes, led by M G Boulter who is also known for his solo work and appearances with Emily Portman's Coracle Band and the Simone Felice Group. Homesick is country rock with a raw, dirty realness. Lilac and Soil and Pollution Blues are minimalistic, plaintive Americana. To Be An Actor features songwriting reminiscent of The Decemberists set to a mix of punk chug, Spaghetti Western twang, and Celtic folk. War Drums is a gritty, hard-hitting track combining folk-rock and powerpop and incorporating a super-melodic, memorable chorus. Mother Moore is American-style alt-folk-rock treading a similar dark path to Sixteen Horsepower. Available on CD, vinyl and download; find out more at www.theluckystrikes.co.uk
E GONE Advice to Hill Walkers CD (Deep Water Acres/Sunrise Ocean Bender)
Second album from E Gone, the current musical project of Daniel Westerlund (formerly of The Goner). The album previously appeared as a ten track cassette on the Zeon Lights label in 2015, and has now been remixed and remastered with two additional tracks in CD format, jointly released by Sunrise Ocean Bender and Deep Water Acres. The CD is packaged within a smart card wallet with fold-out poster-style inlay, with striking graphic design work by Sunrise Ocean Bender's Kevin McFadin. The album is an entirely instrumental melting-pot of psychedelia, folk & world music, retro-futuristic electronica, soundtrack music and beyond, the different genres brought together in an inventive and engaging manner.
Mark the Spot Where You Leave the Injured has a melody that recalls traditional Swedish folk, combined with ominous drones and spacey sound effects. Your Goal is to Know Everything and Say Nothing features both Middle Eastern and Appalachian folk influences shrouded in a heady psychedelic atmosphere. Build Your Camp out of Alpine Moss is based around a twangy guitar melody that sounds like something out of a 1970s spy movie, swathed in whooshing and whirring sci-fi electronics. You Don't Know It Yet But We Are Losing You is an intense and ecstatic adaptation of a Syrian traditional piece, Ya Bent Ehkimini. Find New Methods for Compass Use accompanies swelling drones with the sound of a crackling campfire. Continue Ascent While Blindfolded has a melody that sounds like an old-time folk dance tune, possibly Eastern European, yet played on retro-futuristic synths and accompanied by electronic bleepery that conjures up images of shooting stars falling to earth while rockets zoom into space.
A superb album, available on CD at sunriseoceanbender.bigcartel.com or download at sunriseoceanbender.bandcamp.com. Further info at www.dwacres.com and www.sunriseoceanbender.com
KRISTIN HERSH Wyatt at the Coyote Palace double CD and book (Omnibus Press)
Lavishly presented new solo album from Throwing Muses and 50FOOTWAVE founder Kristin Hersh, comprising two album-length CDs within a full colour hardback book with lyrics, photographic art, and prose. The album's title is inspired by Kristin's son Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum, and his fascination with an apartment building that became inhabited by coyotes after being abandoned by its human occupants. Wyatt would often visit the building during the time the album was being recorded, yet his fascination with the place came to an abrupt end. The songs were written over the space of five years, during a tumultuous time in Kristin's life. The lyrics have a stream of consciousness quality, with bleak, unsettling tales of drugs, booze and emotional numbness alongside evocative use of metaphor. The book's prose sections are autobiographical and expand upon the topics explored within the songs.
Bright features acoustic jangle offset by discordant guitar noise. Bubble Net is raw, banjo-based folk combined with dreamlike indie pop. In Stitches begins as a bleak, stripped-down singer-songwriter piece not dissimilar from the DIY sounds coming out of the hometaper scene, then flies off at a completely unexpected sugary pop tangent with a hugely melodic tune and lots of la-la-las - an inventive mixture of sounds that really works. There's the pained noise-rock of Green Screen, followed by Hemingway's Tell, a brilliant mix of raw, dirty art-rock and pretty pop with folky leanings. Detox is raw and angry music best described as acoustic grunge, combined with a choppy-changey, eclectic song structure. Some Dumb Runaway has the multifaceted approach to song structure that characterises much of the music on this album, bringing together more of that 'acoustic grunge' style alongside a folk-tinged chorus melody, woozy atmospheric sound effects, and riotous, searing guitar noise. From the Plane has a very DIY sound in which sparse guitar appears alongside scratchy found sounds. Shotgun is an emotive, fractured song in which a plaintive piano riff is paired with dissonant guitar noise.
Whilst being a professionally produced album by an established artist, the music has as much raw, dirty realness, non-mainstream song stucturing, and original, inventive thought as the best DIY music, which is of course a Very Good Thing. Visit www.kristinhersh.com and www.omnibuspress.com
THE RABBIT'S HAT Remixomatosis CD (Stone Premonitions)
Cleverly titled retrospective compilation of 17 tracks from The Rabbit's Hat, remixed for this release. In addition to the tracks I already knew from the original releases, there are some different versions (I would guess probably earlier versions) of familiar favourites, as well as a handful of songs I'm less familiar with in any form. I'm guessing this new-to-me material dates from the band's early, cassette-only era, before they made the transition to CDs. If you only know The Rabbit's Hat for their later CD releases, this album is a must have, as the lost classics included here are a real treat.
Holiday Dreams is hazy, dreamlike pop with psychedelic undercurrents. Ignorance Insane combines bouncy pop with a punk attitude. Whilst The Rabbit's Hat are not known as an indiepop outfit, this track would actually fit in pretty well alongside bands of that ilk. Church blends spiky underground pop with vintage-style bluesy rock. Ravenous Radicals is a fine slice of eccentric absurdism. Break Out of this Trance is a soulful acoustic track. Feed Your Head is more overtly psychedelic than the version from their Year of the Rabbit album, with plenty of intense psychedelic guitar work. Hector is beautiful ethereal folk-pop. It's hard to incorporate saxophone into songs like this without that instrument sounding out of place or making the song sound like cringeingly bad 1980s mainstream pop, but The Rabbit's Hat are one of the few bands that really manage to pull it off: a testament to the true talent at work here.
Listen is a sophisticated mix of classy pop, prog rock, and vintage electronica. Astral Dreams begins as swirling, surreal psychedelic pop with ambient undertones, giving way to intense psych-tinged prog rock. An Only Child is ethereal prog-pop with evocative lyrics about an introverted girl and her imaginary world. What's Become of Johnny? features recited lyrics critiquing mindless television addiction and copycat violence set to an evocative mix of didgeridoo, harsh crashing guitar noise, and bubbling electronics. The Moon is among this band's classic tracks, with poetic, meaningful lyrics despairing at environmental destruction set to a well-crafted, laid-back rock arrangement.
The Rabbit's Hat were eclectic, inventive, talented and steeped in the true underground spirit. This is a great album that shows their progression from a rawer underground pop style to a more experimental approach informed by prog rock. Well worth checking out whether you're new to the band or an existing fan curious about their early roots. Available from
VARIOUS The Forest/The Wald CD (A Year in the Country)
The latest in A Year in the Country's themed compilations takes as its starting point the wild wood and its surrounding folklore. There's the medieval-tinged experimental folk of Bare Bones (featuring Dom Cooper of The Owl Service), the thrumming electronics of Polypores, and the eerie and quirky electronic experimentation of Cosmic Neighbourhood. Magpahi contributes a fine slice of haunted electropop, in which vintage synths and found sounds provide the backdrop for a song lifted right out of a long-gone era. The piece comes across rather like a folkier and somewhat darker version of Broadcast. Time Attendant appear with an electronic experimental piece sounding like incidental music from a 1970s sci-fi TV show.
United Bible Studies' David Colohan bridges the gap between ambient and neoclassical with an atmospheric mix of drones and wordless vocals. Richard Moult, also of United Bible Studies, provides a cinematic neoclassical composition that is in turn plaintive, chilling and dreamlike. Sproatly Smith appear with an ethereal and dark experimental folk song pairing a semi-abstract xylophone melody with found sounds. The Hare and the Moon featuring Alaska provide a superb example of darkly beautiful experimental folk; the song itself has a spooky nursery-song feel and features an eerie accompaniment made up of church bells, music box, drones, violin, and ritualistic drumming. The Rowan Amber Mill provide a dark psych-folk instrumental with medieval hints, excellent stuff. The Séance, a project of Saint Etienne's Pete Wiggs, joins up with Lutine to create a perfect synthesis of dark folk, woozy psychedelia, and evocative neoclassical soundtrack music. In-house project A Year in the Country blend ethereal drones, fractured noise, birdsong, found sounds, and electronic hums and thrums, creating an end result that is part feverish dream, part incidental music for a folk-horror movie.
As with previous volumes in the series, the album brings together a number of different genres yet retains a cohesive feel due to the shared aesthetic and common theme of the music within. A recommended insight into the darker and more experimental side of folk music, as well as those artists whose music draws from other genres whilst tapping into the same eerie mood. The handcrafted packaging adds a personal touch and shows that this is a label that really cares about what they do. Find out more at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
HEDNINGARNA Kult CD (Silence)
Hedningarna ('The Pagans', so called because a friend of theirs thought their instruments "sounded pagan"), were formed in 1987 and have since become one of the best known Nordic folk bands, with a fanbase across Europe and the USA. Centred around founder members from Sweden, Anders Norudde and Hållbus Totte Mattsson, the band has undergone a number of line-up changes over the years, to include amongst others Finnish vocalists Sanna Kurki-Suonio, Tellu Turkka-Saari, Anita Lehtola and Liisa Matveinen, and Sámi joik performer Wimme Saari. Their last album, &, showed a further reinvention of their style, being a collection of reinterpretations of lost material by Philemon Arthur and the Dung. Now, Hedningarna have released Kult, which brings together twenty previously unreleased tracks from across the band's career. It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a mere outtakes album; the quality of the music here is easily up there with the tracks that made it onto their previous albums.
Renkvist features ecstatic chanting and percussion. Kanalaulu (a different version from on the Kaksi! album) has the feel of a mournful lament accompanied by ringing kantele and soaring willow flute. Røjsekatten is a traditional folk tune pairing Hardanger fiddle with lute. Ságojohka is a brilliant, inventive piece that seamlessly melds folk and pop in an adventurous way, having a bouncy, catchy tune set to folk instruments that sound almost electronic at times. Rieban/Vandringen begins as a joik, segueing into a vigorous Norwegian folk tune. Towards the end, they introduce squalling electrified keyed fiddle, lending a riotous, discordant feel to the track. Itkekys is a traditional Finnish song incorporating an atmospheric instrumental section with cow horn and metallic percussion. Kateen Sanat sets traditional Finnish lyrics to a dark and forceful arrangement with a level of ferocity to rival any metal band. Suet-Olvo is a frenetic mix of folk, punk and pop with a free-thinking spirit.
A superb album that Hedningarna fans - and fans of adventurous folk music in general - cannot afford to miss. Available at www.silence.se
THE HONEY POT Ascending Scales double LP (Fruits de Mer)
To celebrate their 100th release, Fruits de Mer Records have put out this ambitious and lavish coloured vinyl double album by The Honey Pot, who for this release have enlisted the help of a vast cast of guests, including members of classic 1960s and 70s bands (e.g. The Electric Prunes, The Pretty Things, Buggles, Fuchsia, and July, as well as Fairport Convention's original singer Judy Dyble), and well-respected names from the current psych underground (such as The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman and Ade Shaw, Britt and Anders from Us and Them, Anton Barbeau, Jack Ellister, and The Luck of Eden Hall's Gregory Curvey). The album is a mix of Honey Pot originals and vintage psych and prog covers, ranging from intense, rocking psych-outs like 1969 and Solomon Deep to the more delicate psych-folk sound of Love is Green, Sitting All Alone and River Runs By. The whimsical and eccentric side of psych-pop is represented here by the Orange Machine cover, Dr Crippen's Waiting Room, which features Anton Barbeau and is not too dissimilar from his own material. They also venture into the realm of spacerock on Can't You See the Witch, with the powerful voice of Cary Grace, the vintage synth wizardry and the heavy psych guitar all a perfect complement for each other. Time Machine, featuring Nick Saloman and Ade Shaw, brings together elements of spacerock, sitar psych, and blistering psych-rock guitar. Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow, featuring Steve Palmer of Mooch, is mellow and ethereal, incorporating elements of ambient and world music. As with all FdM releases, this is strictly limited, so get your orders in quickly at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
THE LANCASHIRE HUSTLERS Adventure (Steep Hill)
Third album from The Lancashire Hustlers, a duo formed in Southport and based in London, comprising multi-instrumentalists Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes. The album is aptly titled, traversing through multiple genres in an adventurous fashion, the band having the talent to combine these disparate influences into a coherent whole. At the Handover is ethereal, dreamlike psych-pop with effective use of tamboura drones and metallophone. June Wedding is a really lovely piece that stays with the ethereal mood of the previous track while bringing in a folky influence. Desert Drive is an inventive mix of Californian folk-rock, film soundtrack, and atmospheric psychedelia. An Expert Dies is dramatic and innovative psych-pop with Latin American tinges. Villains are Kings blends a big, cinematic jazz style with countryesque slide guitar and a psychedelic eccentricity. When the Nail is Tested draws from 1960s soul. An album that simultaneously takes inspiration from the classic sounds of the past whilst keeping an eye on the future. Available now on LP, CD and download; visit www.lancashirehustlers.com
VARIOUS A New Career in a New Town: More Songs Written By David Bowie CD (Fruits de Mer)
Not available to buy, this is a freebie CD sent out to Fruits de Mer club members who purchase FdM's December batch of vinyl releases, either directly from the label or from
Heyday Mail Order. Following the success of FdM's previous David Bowie tribute album, Fashion, many of the artists from that album have returned to FdM, alongside some new names to the label, for a second batch of Bowie covers. Anton Barbeau contributes an acoustic version of Ziggy Stardust. The Nomen's version of V-2 Schneider is spacerock with experimental undertones. Powerpop meets spacerock in Cary Grace's Queen Bitch. Blue Giant Zeta Puppies completely reinvent Heroes as an experimental mix of spacerock, surf, punk, and spoken word. The Seventh Ring of Saturn appear with a powerpop version of Star. Consterdine's Warszawa is an engaging slice of retro electronica. The Spookers' V-2 Schneider is an ingenious mix of hazy, swirling ambient music and psychedelic country-rock that's got me curious to hear their own music. The Past Tense's The Laughing Gnome is eccentric psych-pop complete with 'laughing gnome' backing vocals. Jack Ellister and Friends' Rebel Rebel is an excerpt from a jam session at the 14th Dream of Dr Sardonicus festival, combining elements of garage rock, psych, spacerock and experimental music. Steve Barnes' Jean Genie is a kind of a cappella blues with handclaps. Find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
THE SPEED OF SOUND Everything Changes LP/CD (BE Records)
The Speed of Sound were originally active between 1989-1991, reforming some years later to release two albums in 2011 and 2012, and now they are back with a third album released as a lavish package containing 12" heavyweight vinyl, double CD, and full colour inserts. The first CD includes all the songs from the LP, the second features 10 bonus tracks. The band has an exciting, energetic style and a strong DIY underground attitude, blending the more angular side of 1980s indie music and post-punk with aspects of psych and garage rock. Shut all the Clubs is spiky post-punk. Maid of the Grey is off-centre psych-pop with a raw, garagey sensibility and a catchy, tuneful chorus - really brilliant stuff. Little Miss Restless is an inventive take on 80s-ish indie pop, bringing in soaring flute which adds a dreamlike atmosphere partway between psychedelia and classical music. Always Seems to Fall is melancholic and tuneful indie pop offset by a raw, metallic guitar sound. Chalk Circle is intense, dark and on-edge, blending elements of post-punk, indie pop and vintage style rock. The Changes is a prime slice of underground rock, balancing spiky abrasiveness with a strong sense of melody. Limited to 350 hand numbered copies, this is a great album from a band I'm keen to hear more from. Find out more at thespeedofsounduk.blogspot.co.uk
SENDELICA 10th Anniversary Tour 2016 double CD and DVD (Fruits de Mer/Friends of the Fish)
Bumper live album from prolific band Sendelica, with recordings taken from several of their gigs in 2016. The two CDs include live recordings from Cosmic Puffin, 15th Dream of Dr Sardonicus, and Blind Cat Festival, whilst the DVD features footage from Kozfest, Primar Fortess, Dr Sardonicus, and Cellar Bar. Sendelica are often classed as psych-rock or spacerock, which isn't wrong, though their eclectic mix of influences often takes their sound into other additional territories. Cromlech Suite parts I-IV is centred around jazzy sax, which is at times mellow and flowing and at times a wilder improvisational style. The sax is accompanied by a hypnotic chugging bassline, retro-futuristic spacey synth, and dual guitars, one coming from a heavy psych-rock direction and the other with an almost post-rock quality. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buddha combines motifs from Pink Floyd's Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun with Middle Eastern, ambient, chilled-out jazz, and intense psych-rock aspects. Manhole of the Universe blends seriously heavy guitar work, cosmic electronics and soaring sax. Drone in E is a long, sprawling two part piece from the mellower side of the band, perhaps best described as ambient-jazz-psych-rock. Dancing Too Dante's Inferno is a powerful combination of driving sax melody and blistering noisy guitar. Available at sendelica.bandcamp.com
KITCHEN CYNICS Leaprooks CDR (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
Latest album from Alan Davidson's long running and prolific project, the Kitchen Cynics. Alan is joined on three tracks by Gayle Brogan (of Pefkin and Electroscope), with whom he also plays in Barrett's Dottled Beauty, who incidentally also have a new album out now which I will be reviewing very soon. Pretty Little Songs is darkly beautiful psych-folk. A Choice is experimental folk with drones, echoey vocals, and if I'm not mistaken, kantele. A Lark, A Stonechat and an Owl is an evocative neoclassical instrumental with a film soundtrack feel. Otherworldly Greens is folk-tinged psych-pop with a woozy experimental arrangement. A Dark Dream is inspired by traditional folk ballads and accompanied by music as eerie and ethereal as its title suggests. The Kestrel sets recited poetry about a hunting kestrel to meandering, burbling experimental psychedelia. The album ends with a live recording, Hoodie Craw/Bogie's Bonnie Belle, which takes in folk-tinged bedroom pop, improv with mindbending cosmic effects, and unaccompanied traditional Aberdeen folksong. An inventive album of experimental psychedelic folk from an artist who shows no signs of running out of new ideas even after more than a hundred releases. Available at kitchencynics.bandcamp.com
BARRETT'S DOTTLED BEAUTY Owls in Her Eyes LP (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
Second album from Barrett's Dottled Beauty, a duo comprising Alan Davidson (Kitchen Cynics, Matricarians) and Gayle Brogan (of Pefkin and Electroscope, and who has also collaborated with United Bible Studies, Alison O'Donnell, Adventures in Stereo, Hefner, Bell Lungs, and Stewart Boyracer's solo project Steward). Both are long-time participants in the underground music scene, with Gayle previously running Boa fanzine in the 1990s and subsequently the mailorder distro Boa Melody Bar in addition to making her own music, and Alan founding Les Enfants du Paradiddle over 25 years ago, originally as a homemade tape label, having been inspired by the DIY ethos of such bands as the Television Personalities and the Desperate Bicycles. There have been over a hundred Kitchen Cynics releases over the years, on Les Enfants du Paradiddle and assorted other labels. I was tickled to discover that Gayle and Alan first encountered each other when Electroscope and the Kitchen Cynics both appeared on a Bliss compilation tape, Topaz, back in the 1990s ... it's quite an honour to think I played some part in bringing these two musicians together!
This latest album from Barrett's Dottled Beauty is released on vinyl in a strictly limited edition of just 80 copies, all in unique handmade collage sleeves, and as such is very close to selling out. A handful of people may just about have time to grab a copy if they're quick - last I heard there was something like 7 copies left - but if you have missed out, the album is also available as a download. There are four long, semi-improvised tracks here, starting with The Cynic, The Dipper and the Thrush, which pairs Gayle's hushed, atmospheric singing with Alan's recited poetry, set to a backdrop that blends folk, drone, spacey electronics, and delirious, surreal experimental music. Forvie is beautiful experimental psych-folk, bringing together an ethereal rendition of a traditional-style song with a swelling, thrumming soundscape. Owls in Her Eyes combines traditional-style folk with evocative ambient experimentation. The Rain Has Come in Misty Showers turns a John Clare poem into flowing, atmospheric folk set to semi-abstract psychedelic music. A highly creative work of aural art from two of DIY music's most dedicated and prolific mainstays. Available at barrettsdottledbeauty.bandcamp.com
POCKET SIZE Vemood LP/CD (MillHill Productions)
Pocket Size are an instrumental band from Sweden who make an impressive and enjoyable mix of psych-rock and jazz, with additional elements of other genres being incorporated from time to time. Their latest album Vemood was recorded live in studio in front of an audience, the recording including the between-song announcements and crowd cheers for the full live experience. The title track brings together angular prog, mellow and flowing psych-rock and jazz, with sax and Hammond organ featuring alongside the guitars and drums. Shaving the Face of the Earth is strongly melodic jazz-rock with 60s psych undercurrents. Volk und Kraut combines jazz, funk and rock, bringing improvisation to the forefront with impassioned sax, organ, and drum solos. The album is available on LP or CD, each format limited to 300 copies. The CD version includes an additional track, Freddie's Exploration, a fully improvised piece which combines elements of blues, funk, jazz and mellow psych-rock, with organ adding an almost retro-futuristic spacey effect. Find out more at www.pocketsizesthlm.se
SHAY TAL From the Ice to the Sand CD (Stone Premonitions)
Shay Tal comprises multi-instrumentalists Finn Millar and Stephen Robson (aka Steve Sekrit of Punishment of Luxury and Somebody Famous), with Jimmy Davis (aka Punishment of Luxury's Jimi Giro) on bass. Originally called Shay, the band were included on a couple of Bliss compilation tapes back in the day. They released their Dreamers and Stalkers album under the Shay moniker back in 2001, before changing their name to Shay Tal for a further album, Tambourina, and EP, Bring in All the Horses, all on Stone Premonitions. Now they return with their third album, mastered by Stone Premonitions' Tim Jones and packaged within evocative swirly artwork. One True Heart comes across like a mix of dreampop, post-punk and Kate Bush. Children of Beautiful is ethereal and whimsical psych-pop. Opened Eyes is a gentle piano-led piece with the distinctive, atmospheric vocals of Finn Millar. The Silent Sound of Everything is folk-tinged psych-pop with Stephen Robson on lead vocals. I Like That is inventive pop incorporating some nice use of autoharp and clarinet. Rose by Another Name puts a floaty, ethereal spin on early 1980s-ish synthpop. An intelligent, mature and creative pop album with an eclectic yet cohesive approach. Available at
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