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


MORDECAI SMYTH The Mayor of Toytown is Dead LP/CD (Mega Dodo)
The title of this album is no doubt a reference to Mordecai Smyth's moving away from the eccentric 60s-influenced 'Toytown' psych-pop of past recordings and heading in a more prog-influenced direction. Billywitch has a pop heart, yet is informed by the more accessible side of prog. The River of Sleep is dark and dramatic, straddling the boundaries between prog and gothic rock, with occasional tinges of jazz and psychedelia adding to the heady atmosphere. Heading Back West is country-rock viewed through an English psychedelic lens. A Knife and a Key is inventive prog-pop, inspired one moment by a blend of flamenco, bossa nova and mariachi, before drifting into gentle pastoral classical music then lurching towards twisty-turny prog rock. Happy is bouncy quirky pop with prog stylings. Dissent into Chaos is angular, spiky, early 80s-ish electropop interspersed with a variety of instrumental parts from atmospheric prog to intense noise-rock. The cover of Caravan's Golf Girl is much in keeping with the rest of the album, combining a pop sensibility with psychedelic quirkiness and prog angularity. A free-thinking, innovative mix of styles which will come as a surprise to anyone expecting the album to follow on in the same vein as Mordecai Smyth's debut album Sticky Tape and Rust. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk

VARIOUS The Quietened Cosmologists CD (A Year in the Country)
Continuing A Year in the Country's themed compilation series, The Quietened Cosmologists is inspired by discarded or unrealised space exploration projects, and "the intrigue and sometimes melancholia of related derelict sites and technological remnants that lie scattered and forgotten". The album includes the vintage sci-fi bleeps and ominous drones of Field Lines Cartographer, Pulselovers' disorienting yet strangely reassuring cinematic drone piece, Magpahi's beautiful combination of medieval folk and retro-futurism with a dark edge, Vic Mars with an ethereal instrumental that could be described as electronic classical music, Unit One's semi-abstract bleeps, drones and chugs creating a dystopian sci-fi mood, A Year in the Country's dark, beat-driven electronica with its pummelling rhythms and menacing drones, Keith Seatman's space-pop instrumental combining off-centre retro-futurism with a sense of fun, Listening Center's woozy, dizzying and nightmarish experimental music, and David Colohan's brooding, film score-esque piece combining classical and folk motifs. As always with this series, this is an impressive snapshot of current music broadly categorisable as experimental, its homemade packaging having a personal touch and a keen eye for detail, and its shared theme giving it the cohesive feel of a complete album rather than a random collection of tracks. Find out more at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk

KOSMONAUT Misfits on the Horizon (The Porterfield Recording Company)
Kosmonaut consists of members of three bands who were familiar names in the indiepop world around the time I started getting to know about this music. Anyone with a long-held interest in this genre will surely recognise Stephen Maughan from Bulldozer Crash, Malcolm (Mala) Reay from The Gravy Train, and Geoff Suggett from The Lavender Faction. Kosmonaut have released music on Matinee Recordings in the past, and now they are back with this album which is the debut release on new label The Porterfield Recording Company. The limited edition CD sold out pretty much immediately, but a download version is still available via Bandcamp. Silver Star is great powerpop combining strong melody and sunny jangle with gutsy guitar noise; puts me in mind at times of Teenage Fanclub. Losing Friends is brilliant indiepop in the best late 80s/early 90s style, that takes me right back to my early explorations of labels like Sarah, A Turntable Friend, and Summershine. Winter Sun is light and airy pop with swirling electronics. Canada is brooding electropop with roots in the early 1980s, swathing a hypnotic groove within a darkly atmospheric swirl. Debbie Harry's Smile is fuzzy buzzy noisepop with an infectious enthusiasm. Not So Clever Now puts an off-kilter spin on old-school indiepop with its mix of chiming and chainsaw guitars and ethereal keyboard. Rise Again blends soulful retro rock with fierce yet atmospheric guitar noise. Your Day in the Sun is an innovative mix of vintage-style indiepop with ambient drones and shuffly electronic beats. A really amazing, uplifting album that appeals equally to my love of classic indiepop and my appreciation of inventive musical eclecticism. Very highly recommended! Available at kosmonaut01.bandcamp.com, with further info at www.facebook.com/kosmonaut.uk

THE BRAINIAC 5 We're Ready! CD/download (Reckless)
The Brainiac 5 have been on a roll since reforming in 2013. Just a few months after their recent Journey to X album and not that long after its predecessor Exploding Universe comes this latest album in which all-new material appears alongside reworked versions of a couple of older tracks. Drinking Song is a punchy mix of punk, ska, underground pop, and psych-rock. The Holy Tangible is brilliant stuff, bringing together classic melodic psych-rock with a punk energy and atmospheric undercurrents. Wave begins with raw American-style folk and twisted blues, giving way to thrashy powerpop punctuated by psych instrumental sections from intense to mellow and back again, including some atmospheric use of flute, marimba, and experimental sound effects. She's Free is thrilling psych-punk-ska with guest vocals from Jessie Pie, whose powerful, soulful voice works well with this intense song which long time followers of The Brainiac 5 will recognise as a reworking of Trotsky from their 1978 EP Mushy Doubt. Night Games is another song from The Brainiac 5's past, but one which has not been recorded until now. Purportedly dictated by Jimi Hendrix via a ouija board conversation, it blends retro funk-rock with the band's trademark psychedelic punk approach. Space is the Place originally appeared on The Brainiac 5's comeback EP from 2013; a new version rounds off the current album with its perfect balance of strong melody and intense psych-rock and punk aspects. Exciting, powerful music from a continually impressive band. Visit www.brainiac5.co.uk

RICHARD WARREN Disentangled LP/download (Hudson)
Richard Warren has a diverse and prolific musical background, having been involved in various bands since the mid 1990s, including Echoboy, Kings of the South Seas, Spiritualized, Starsailor, and most recently Jon Boden's band The Remnant Kings. He has also released four solo albums since 2010, of which Disentangled is the latest. Rooted in the country idiom, the album features such songs as Last Breath (country-rock with a smoky bar-room atmosphere), Simplify (woozy alt-country), and several other songs for which Lauren Laverne's "weirded out Johnny Cash" comparison is apt. For me though, Richard Warren really shines when he goes one further with the experimentation, psychedelia and eclecticism. Only Always combines raw-edged American-style psych-folk-rock with gentle piano, the repeated minimalistic lyrics creating a mantra-like atmosphere. Silvertown is a psych-folk-rock instrumental that's chilled-out yet with a menacing edge, the lo-tech DIY-sounding drum machine adding an extra layer of quirk factor. Disentangled is a raw electric blues/US folk instrumental blending the nicely hypnotic with a certain sharpness. Withered Tree has wobbly drones and military drums setting the scene for a piece I can only describe as 'fever-dream folk-rock'. Find out more at www.facebook.com/RWarrenMusic and www.hudsonrecords.co.uk

THE DELTA BELL Hold Fast the Fire LP/download (Random Acts of Vinyl)
The Delta Bell are a Brighton band headed up by songwriter/musician Kate Gerrard. The music here is beautiful and sophisticated, having equal appeal for fans of country and indiepop. Berlin combines country, classic jangly indiepop, and cinematic strings. Little Girl Lost is bleak yet bright, pairing jangle with a spaghetti western twang, and having an overall vibe that comes across rather like how Sixteen Horsepower might sound if they were led by paired female vocalists. Modern City is poppy country with an arrangement that brings together the chug and guts of powerpop with retro keyboards. Golden is really moving folk-rock with very lovely use of strings, piano and vocal harmonies. Ride Out begins with a minimalistic Hammond organ and vocal intro setting the scene for a melancholic, world-weary mix of country and jangly indiepop. An excellent album from a band I'm keen to hear more from. Visit www.randomactsofvinyl.co.uk and thedeltabell.co.uk

ANDY B Fantasy World CDR (Pastime)
Another new album from one of the most prolific underground artists there is! Coming mostly from the noisier side of Andy B's output, the album includes such songs as Lose Myself In You (thrashy noisepop), Leaving Town (1980s-style indiepop with a nice juxtaposition of noisy guitars and synthesised strings), Why Can't You See? (melancholic sentiments swathed in shoegaze-ish atmospheric noise), Get Out of My Hair (bouncy, catchy pop with a sort of indiefied mod touch), and Communication Breakdown (dark and slightly angular, with roots in the post-punk era). 4 songs from the album have also been released as the taster EP Lose Myself In You. Available on CD at pastimerecords.webs.com or download at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2018.