HANTERHIR The Saving of Cadan double CD/triple LP (Easy Action)
A huge ambitious project from Cornish band Hanterhir, spanning 2 CDs or five sides of vinyl. Lyrically inspired by Cornish myth, the music here is a unique synthesis of genres that distills practically the entire history of alternative music, from post-punk, grunge and shoegaze to psych-folk, experimental electronica and beyond, into a cohesive whole. Hello Sunshine is a multifaceted, extended piece taking in gently swelling drones, prog-folk, dark and spiky post-punk with intense squalling guitars and wailing sax, and finally a folk-tinged, glacial mix of post-rock and dreampop. Arloedthes a'n Lydn combines the ethereal atmosphere of dreampop with wild, frantic sax and forceful vocals. Hope Comes with Love begins in a style best described as pastoral retro-futurism, with gentle folk flute merging with the whirrs and whooshes of vintage synths, before introducing impassioned vocals and fierce guitars to push the track down an intense alt-rock route with a perfect balance of noise and strong melody. Darallow takes a song reminiscent of the more sophisticated side of 1980s indie pop and swathes it in a woozy, heavily reverbed atmosphere.
The Fisherman is an inventive blend of traditional-inspired folk and shoegaze; the band also scores bonus points for their creative use of sax which sounds nothing like either jazz or bland 80s pop. The Dream features the hypnotic rhythms and cosmic electronic whoosh of spacerock combined with squalling riotous guitar noise and improvisational sax, as well as bringing in a folky riff that sounds like a traditional fiddle tune, but played here on saxophone, again avoiding the styles more predictably associated with this instrument. Tales puts an innovative spin on 80s style indie pop, with clattering and whirring percussion and flowing atmospheric sax. This is How It's Always Been is an enjoyably spiky track that takes me right back to my early 1990s explorations of lo-fi noisepop labels like Fluff and Sticky, yet as usual Hanterhir give us their own unique take on the genre by incorporating some floaty, dreamlike flute. Or Without You closes the album with its seamless combination of psych-folk, psych-rock and post-rock, in which soaring flute and meandering sax share space with folky mandolin and classic psychedelic guitar work. A hugely important album from a refreshingly inventive band - find out more at hanterhir.com
SVÄNG Sväng Plays Tango CD (Galileo Music Communication)
Finnish harmonica quartet Sväng now turn their attention to tango, following their album of Sibelius compositions and several albums in which they put their own stamp on a wide assortment of genres from folk to film music. Syyspihlajan Alla tempers what seems in places like a fairly jaunty old time dance tune with a sense of melancholy and longing. Muista Minua combines a pensive melody with an ecstatic, soaring section that hints at jazz. Soi Mainikki Hiljainen, a piece by Ukrainian-born, Finnish-based composer Fridrich Bruk, is performed in a laid-back style with a drawn-out melody inspired by a singing technique known as 'dragging'. Tango Humiko is a sprightly piece that combines tango with Japanese musical motifs. Hugolle brings in some enjoyably angular and off-centre moments. Maggien Tango, dedicated to 19th century modern dance pioneer Maggie Gripenberg and all strong, independent women, is a beautiful composition that is melancholic yet self-assured and owes as much to 19th century classical music, 20th century orchestral film soundtrack, and folk, as it does to tango. Siltatanssit moves away from the melancholic minor scale pieces more usual of Finnish tango. Composed by Arto Järvelä of folk fiddle band JPP, the piece is a bright and cheerful dance tune that combines tango with shades of both country and fairground music. The band play harmonica in a style befitting a chamber ensemble, and in turn give us a fresh take on tango. Available at www.galileomusic.de
PULSAR TRIO Zoo of Songs CD (T3 Records)
Pulsar Trio's music is based around an unconventional combination of instruments, namely piano, sitar and surbahar, and drums, employed to create a similarly innovative style of music perhaps best categorised as experimental world/jazz fusion. Most of the tracks are animal themed, hence the album's title, with quaintly quirky titles like Butterfly Toe, Knittery Owl, and Mink the Toad, that raise a comforting smile yet belie the seriousness and depth of the music. The CD is packaged within a 6-panel digipak that's nicely textured to give a three-dimensional, tactile quality to the dragonfly wings on the cover, an attention to detail that I really appreciate. Of Men and Mice combines neoclassical, Greek folk, Indian classical and traditional music, jazz percussion, and a touch of prog. Beginning with some hectic metallic percussion that calls to mind Terje Isungset, Tin Stag Story is a melodic modern jazz/classical hybrid, with some of the most jazzy parts being played on sitar, an unusual innovation that really works. Butterfly Toe combines uplifting Indian-tinged jazz with sprinklings of spacey electronics. Flugmodus features throbbing drones resembling the sound of a flying insect, alongside inventive percussion and a piano melody that straddles the boundaries of jazz and classical. Mink the Toad is uptempo and busy, with a slight underlying sense of foreboding. Slow Down Trude brings together arty experimental percussion, slowed-down late-night piano jazz, and sitar melodies combining experimental music with occasional introductions of Spanish-sounding musical motifs. Lots of new, original ideas on this engaging album. Find out more at www.pulsartrio.de and www.t3records.de
PLINTH Music for Smalls Lighthouse LP (Clay Pipe Music)
Originally released five years ago and commanding high prices on the collectors' market, Clay Pipe have now reissued this album in a limited edition of 500 copies on translucent sea-green vinyl. Demand for the album was again so strong that it sold out immediately, though there is still a download edition available. Plinth is the work of Michael Tanner, also of United Bible Studies, The A Lords, The Cloisters, Thalassing, and Taskerlands, and also known for the solo recordings under his own name. The music here is inspired by the story of 19th century lighthouse keepers Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith, including Howell's struggle to stay sane in the isolation of Smalls Lighthouse following Griffith's death in an accident. A piece that takes its name from Smalls Lighthouse's map coordinates opens the album, in which gentle raindrops accompany the music box-like tones of a toy piano, before introducing ethereal organ and the sound of billowing waves, followed by plaintive piano filtering 19th century classical music through a woozy, dreamlike lens, and abstract cinematic music atmospherically accompanied by sounds of the sea. Dawn Reflects in the East merges ambient drones with a spine-tingling neoclassical string composition that is unsettling and beautiful all at once. Message in the Village begins with a section that recalls traditional sailors' hornpipes, yet infused with a mournful, pensive mood, before segueing into a hypnotic and slightly surreal neoclassical piano piece. The Beckoning Arm is an ominous, tension-building cinematic composition backed by the sound of rain, thunder, whipping wind and seagulls' calls, giving way to woozy drones evoking a mood that is simultaneously unsettling and comforting. Sirens closes the album with its ethereal combination of drones, mournful bells, sparse bleak piano, and chorus of unearthly female voices singing in an unknown tongue. An intelligently crafted album of eerie, dreamlike art music. Visit www.claypipemusic.co.uk
NATHAN HALL AND THE SINISTER LOCALS Tunguska Tydfil CD/LP (The Hip Replacement)
Second album from Soft Hearted Scientists' Nathan Hall's current band. Here Nathan and co have opted for an understated homemade approach, with most songs under the three minute mark. Randall and Hopkirk Revisited pairs the baroque with the retro-futuristic. Windmills on Fire is a swirly organ-led psych-pop instrumental. Tunguska Tydfil is woozy, dreamy psych-folk with surreal poetic lyrics and sprinklings of atmospheric electronics. Glacial Glare is uplifting quirky psych-pop with whirling organ and soaring woodwind. Side By Side (Glowing Guide) is very beautiful laid-back psych-pop with intriguing lyrics that seem to be about being protected by a spirit guide. Carnival of the Damned is an eccentrically gruesome story of a circus from hell, with its cannibal clowns, evil ringmaster and death-foreseeing fortune teller, set to a warped psychedelic mutation of Spanish folk music peppered with manic and unsettling electronic burblings. The Phoenix of Albany Road is very lovely baroque-psych-folk-pop, richly arranged with harpsichord and strings. Even this City Won't Last is a bleak, wistful number set to a stark piano and organ arrangement. Another winner from this talented, free-thinking songwriter. The CD is available now, with the LP set to land in just a few days. Visit nathanhallandthesinisterlocals.bandcamp.com
THE WOLFHOUNDS Hands in the Till: The Complete John Peel Sessions CD/LP/Download (A Turntable Friend)
Formed in 1984 and continuing until 1990, The Wolfhounds released four albums and a bunch of singles and were among the bands featured on the seminal NME cassette C86. They reformed in 2006, performing at a London event celebrating the 20th anniversary of C86, and subsequently went on to release new material. C86 is often remembered solely for jangly indiepop, but it mustn't be forgotten that just as many of the bands on the tape were actually responsible for a raucous, bendy, angular kind of music that often gets described, quite rightly, as 'Captain Beefheart plays punk'. The Wolfhounds were somewhere between these two extremes, having more bite and angularity than the more straightforwardly poppy bands whilst being more melodic and accessible than the Ron Johnson lot. During the 1980s, The Wolfhounds recorded three John Peel sessions, all 12 songs from which are collected here. Hand in the Till brings together melodic jangle with manic yelps and a punky chug. Whale on the Beach is a spiky noisefest of an instrumental, offsetting an intricate, almost baroque melody with bursts of harsh atonal guitar noise. Disgusted E7 is a superb track which balances the classic 80s indiepop sound with a sense of sharpness and urgency. Happy Shopper is uplifting underground pop with bendy quirky convolutions and punk attitude. This album is an important artefact of independent music history. Anyone who still mistakenly believes in the largely undeserved 'twee' stereotype of bands associated with C86 really ought to listen to these raw, energetic recordings and be proven wrong. Distributed worldwide by SRD or available direct from the label at www.aturntablefriendrecords.com
SORROW Under the Yew Possessed CD/LP/Download (Night School)
The latest installment in Night School's Rose McDowall reissue programme is Under the Yew Possessed, the 1993 debut album from Sorrow, who were centred around Rose and her then husband Robert Lee. The original edition was out on Rose's own label Piski Disk and distributed by the influential neofolk, post-industrial and experimental music distributor World Serpent. This new reissue adds deluxe packaging to the CD, with redesigned cover art, an outer slipcase and an 8-page booklet with lyrics and notes from Rose about the album's history. Vinyl and digital editions are also available. Rose McDowall is unique as an artist whose recording history has spanned chart pop (Strawberry Switchblade), indiepop (guesting with The Pastels and Felt), and the dark and at times controversial world of post-industrial (Current 93, Nurse With Wound, Death in June, Coil). Sorrow pulls together all three strands of influence - pop, indiepop and dark experimental folk - into an absorbing and emotionally affecting whole.
Die is beautiful melancholic indiepop with chiming guitars, bookended by the darkly ethereal shimmer of drones and angelic wordless vocals. Forgive Me is luxurious pop full of heartfelt emotion, swathed in synth orchestration and given a folky touch from the use of accordion and violin. Songbird is another deeply moving slice of melancholic indiepop, the percussion style and the sprinklings of piano and brass hinting at the more sophisticated end of 1980s mainstream pop. Emptiness combines the luxurious harmonies of 60s girl group pop with darkly psychedelic moments. When I first heard this album I was surprised at how much indiepop (and for that matter, pop) influence it had, considering Sorrow are generally regarded as a dark folk band with roots in the post-industrial scene. However, Dew of the Sea has all the dark experimentalism I was expecting, with whispered vocals over a cinematic neoclassical backdrop that's as mind-altering as any psychedelic music, if not more so. Likewise, Loki and Evil juxtaposes nightmarish and woozy ambient-psychedelic-classical music with a choir-of-angels chorus to create an overall effect that is chillingly beautiful, and Under the Yew Possessed is melancholic, atmospheric folk set to an intense drone-based experimental soundscape. A hauntingly lovely album, eerie and at times unsettling, yet with a pop heart. Find out more at nightschoolrecords.com
ANDY B The Waiting Game CDR/Download (Pastime)
Prolific multi-instrumentalist songwriter and home recording artist Andy B revisits and reworks some of his older songs on this latest album. The heart-on-sleeve, soul-bearing melancholy that characterises much of Andy's songwriting is all present and correct, though he adds much that is new to the arrangements and has tweaked the melodies of some songs here and there. I find myself being drawn mainly to the noisy and the electronicy tracks this time around, whether it's the gutsy indie rock of Something New, the uptempo noisepop of Messengers Passing Through, and Don't Get Me Wrong which combines the classic indiepop sound with a noisy kick, or otherwise The Waiting Game and I Can See Right Through You which set melancholic sentiments to electronic pop accompaniment with lilting keyboards. Available on CDR at pastimerecords.webs.com and download at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com
HIERONYMUS BOGS The Plow CD (Artist Abbey)
Hieronymus Bogs' latest album, produced by Sam Snyder of Maybird, shows a new direction that immerses Bogs' Christian-mystical dark folk into a heady electronic setting. Rosalia is based around songwriting that recalls Sixteen Horsepower with its dark atmosphere and Christian message, set to a creative electronic arrangement incorporating a driving, funky bassline. Sister Death is dark folk with shimmering, ethereal minimalist electronic accompaniment - a really beautiful piece. The Lamb is the William Blake poem, here sung with rich, deep tones against a backdrop of soaring, beat-driven electronica. The Plow has a positive message, basically "life is short so fill your life with love, compassion, empathy and joy". Hildegard's Wisdom is a dramatic, almost gothic song set to music that brings together psych-rock, ambient, and retro-futurism. World My Home has a traditional folk-inspired melody and lyrics showing an appreciation for the beauty of nature accompanied by a cinematic arrangement incorporating creative and intelligently crafted electronica, funky bass and shuffling jazz drums. A highly inventive album with many elements you might not expect to be found together but which really work. Find out more at www.hieronymusbogs.com
FIR CONE CHILDREN The Straight and the Curly CD/Cassette/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Fourth album from Alexander Leonard Donat's project Fir Cone Children. Whilst Alexander writes the songs and plays the instruments, the Fir Cone Children themselves are Alexander's daughters, who don't actually appear on the album but are the inspirations for the songs' lyrics. They are named on the album cover as being the Fir Cone Children, because the
project is based around their way of seeing the world and wouldn't exist without them. FCC started out as a solo project of Alexander Leonard Donat, but this album follows on from its predecessor No Gravity Girls in featuring guest vocals on several tracks by Krissy Vanderwoude of the band Whimsical. The CD version comes with nicely put together homemade packaging, with real photographs glued onto a foldout sleeve, and three photographic inserts including a lyric sheet, the lyrics showing a child's perspective on everything from fruit and veg refusal to beach holidays.
Fir Cone Children are a shoegaze band who also venture into a more in-yer-face version of the genre which they call "dream punk". 3D combines the woozy wall-of-noise atmospherics of shoegaze with forceful vocals and extreme metal blastbeats. On My Plate is atmospheric dreampop with the effective addition of delicate piano. Top of the Shelf combines raucous garage punk with shoegaze ethereality. Down Below is an effective synthesis of bright and cheerful indiepop melody, woozy shoegaze effects and punk energy. Beastie Girls is shouty punky noisepop with blastbeats and an angular choppy-changey song structure. The Straight and the Curly (To the Rescue!) combines breakneck speed, noisy punk with dizzying shoegaze effects. Awesomenitis! blends airy dreampop with a similarly ethereal brand of electronica. The album ends with We're Going Out, a slow and reflective piano-pop piece that picks up speed with the introduction of busy, shuffly beats. A fun album with plenty of energy, putting a new creative spin on shoegaze. Available at blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com
TEO BOY CURCIO Place / Toolatetostop CDR/Download (self-released)
I first came across Teo via his work with The Mundys back in the early 2000s. These days he's making solo recordings, and this CDR comprises two solo works originally released as downloads via Bandcamp in 2017, the Place mini-album and Toolatetostop EP. The 10 tracks here are sung in Spanish, with a brief, straight-to-the-point approach, most songs being under two minutes long. The music combines mod/garage/1960s pop influences with a raw and honest bedroom pop sensibility. The strummy and slightly noisy Nada de Nadie, Rostro Delator which gives cheery retro pop an angular edge, and La Gran Libertad which is uplifting pop with a 60s garage kick, are just a few of the songs here that are sure to appeal equally to fans of 60s music and indiepop alike. Visit teoboycurcio.bandcamp.com
LIME EYELID Week of Wonders LP (self-released)
Lime Eyelid is the solo homemade music project of San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist Josh Schultz. Recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder from the early 1990s and limited to 110 copies, the LP contains six tracks in a genre Josh describes as "loner experimental kitchen psych". The sleeve opts for an ultra-minimalist approach with very little background info; even the track titles (with one exception) are just numbers. 1 is whirring space-age music with analogue synths and theremin accompanied by booming drums and crashing cymbals. I Saw Waves is sparse hometaper songwriting with experimental soundscape accompaniment comprising doom-laden, harsh and echoey guitar noise and analogue synth bleepery. 3 is wild and intense experimental psych with doomy fuzz guitar, psych-rock riffage and massive dramatic percussion. 4 begins with the interplay of two drones, a constant hum and an intermittent pulse, before introducing subtle melody, wordless chantlike vocals, and further noisescaping that fluctuates between creating an atmosphere that is warm and comforting and one that is harsh and unsettling. 5 sounds like a 1960s spy movie soundtrack set on another planet. 6 combines melodic retro-futuristic synth music with squalling and rumbling noise and big echoey drums. An engaging and inventive experimental album; listen or download at soundcloud.com/limeyelid and buy the vinyl at Discogs.
DAVID CW BRIGGS The Man Who Mistook Himself CDR/Download (Folk Archive)
One of several new albums by prolific home recording artist David CW Briggs. The front cover features DCWB's trademark surrealist collage art (the image this time being a tall ship topped with a man's giant head), and a photocopied cut 'n' paste insert in the old school fanzine/tape label style is also included. The album is an eclectic yet cohesive mixture which spans psych, blues, bedroom pop, and experimental sound collage. I Didn't Know Who I Was Once I Cut My Hair is a sparse lo-fi hometaper strum-along with a quirky lyrical approach. Remnant of an Old Weather Front is uplifting DIY noisepop with a psychedelic 60s undercurrent. Red Room is raw lo-fi blues. A Kick in the Teeth sets Syd Barrett-esque songwriting to an arrangement that pairs spiky angularity with psychedelic wooziness. May Day Blues is a dizzying collage of found sounds, bringing together dial-up modem noises, church bells, fairground organ and much more. Limited to just 16 (!) copies on CDR, or a download version is also available. Visit davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com
KRIS GIETKOWSKI Symmetric Communication LP (Fruits de Mer/Strange Fish)
Following his sold out LP of Egg cover versions, Kris Gietkowski returns to Fruits de Mer's Strange Fish sublabel with a new LP comprising three long tracks, one being a further Egg cover (A Visit to Newport Hospital) and the others new compositions in a similar style. FX 4 combines neoclassical piano with multifaceted choppy-changey organ-based prog, ornamented at times by the whooshes and burbles of analogue synths. It's a dramatic and evocative piece that would make great film music. A Visit to Newport Hospital is instrumental prog rock, with intense virtuoso keyboard work that flows naturally from one melody to the next, bookended by heavy slabs of distorted guitar riffage. Divided by Zero is another slice of cinematic keyboard-led prog, the main melody somewhat frenetic, while the twinkling background effects and cosmic whooshes lend an ethereal feel to the piece. There's an impressive talent at work here. The album is available only on coloured vinyl from www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
VARIOUS The Three Seasons triple LP (Fruits de Mer)
An extensive 27-track triple LP featuring covers of material from 1966, 1967 and 1968, that groundbreaking musical era that saw the birth of psychedelia of various shades and the earliest experiments with prog. Fruits de Mer Records has become such a well respected label over the years that they have even managed to secure contributions from three important names from the actual era this album is focused on, namely The Electric Prunes, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds! Elsewhere the album features tracks by artists who are comparatively more obscure but will be familiar to followers of Fruits de Mer, as well as a few newcomers to the label.
The Past Tense cover Magic in the Air by The Attack, combining uplifting psych-pop with a level of bite that wouldn't sound out of place in a punk setting. Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder contribute the whimsical and optimistic psych-pop song Amelia Jane, originally by Made in Sheffield. Jack Ellister appears with a version of The Zodiac:Cosmic Sounds' Aquarius, a prog track based around ethereal cosmic synths. Mark McDowell provides an amazing psych-folk version of The Small Faces' Up the Wooden Hills to Bedfordshire, combining jangly guitar, mandolin, and whirring vintage synths. The Electric Prunes cover the Love classic 7 and 7 Is, swathing impassioned bluesy vocals in a luxurious psychedelic arrangement. The Yardbirds provide a 2016 live version of their own song Think About It, heavy-hitting late 60s rock with a blistering guitar solo. King Penguin merge American folk-rock with sitar psych in their cover of White Bird by It's a Beautiful Day.
Aunt Cynthia's Cabin transform Neil Diamond's Solitary Man into a prime slice of impassioned psychedelic folk-rock. The Honey Pot do a luxurious version of Kites by Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, featuring the soaring vocals of Crystal Jacqueline accompanied by a richly textured arrangement featuring harpsichord, synthesised orchestration, prog guitar, and space-age electronic effects. The traditional folk song Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, recorded by various artists over the years including Anne Briggs, Shelagh McDonald, and in 1968, Pentangle, is presented here as an eerie, brooding, partly improvisational psych-folk piece by Jay Tausig. The Green Ray contribute a great slice of psychedelic folk-rock in their version of John Martyn's Dusty. The Gold Needles' version of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's The Smell of Incense is brilliant, and somewhat genre-defying, as it straddles the boundaries between indiepop jangle, brooding post-punk and atmospheric psychedelia. Find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
VARIOUS The Quietened Mechanisms CD/Download (A Year in the Country)
A Year in the Country's latest themed compilation is inspired by derelict industry, "wander[ing] amongst deserted factories, discarded machinery, closed mines, mills and kilns and their echoes and remains". An insert is included with details on each of the tracks, many of which gain their inspiration from real places, the industrial remains within now reclaimed by nature. The Heartwood Institute combine stark cinematic music with dystopian retrofuturist electronica. Quaker's Stang provide a busy, woozy and dizzying electronic soundscape. Depatterning pair otherworldly electronics with the clash and clatter of a weaving loom. Embertides, a collaboration between members of United Bible Studies and The Hare and the Moon, combine ethereal wordless vocals, drones, nature sounds, and harsh mechanical clangs. Dom Cooper of The Owl Service and The Straw Bear Band contributes an atmospheric abstract track called Metallurgy, made entirely of the resonant sounds produced by metal objects being struck or scraped.
Howlround provides an abstract soundscape which flutters, echoes and chugs along, illustrating the sound of vintage tape recorders nearing the end of their working lives, and acting as a homage to these "tools from another era" and the bygone industry that produced them. Listening Center make melodic electronica which is reminiscent in some ways of 1970s TV themes, the main tune interwoven with arpeggios, space age bleeps and soaring electro-orchestration. Sproatly Smith appear with an eerie and dreamlike experimental folk song, the vocals backed by a heady mix of drones, acoustic guitar and heavily processed woodwind. Pulselovers' piece is inspired by an abandoned brewery, its brooding yet calming drones evoking the beauty of nature breaking through the derelict remains. The inclusion of metallophone to conjure up images of jiggling and clanking beer bottles is a nice touch. The label's in-house project, also called A Year in the Country, contributes a cinematic soundscape in which chilling, sinister and nightmarish sound effects give way to a softer, dreamlike section suggesting a bright beam of sunlight streaming through crumbling rubble.
An evocative album that effectively combines dark and strange electronics and field recordings. Held together by a common theme both topically and musically, the album makes for a complete, cohesive listening experience. Available in two carefully handcrafted CD versions, the boxed Nightfall edition and the string-bound Dawn Light edition, as well as a download available through the usual channels like Bandcamp, iTunes and Amazon. More info at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
VARIOUS Undulating Waters volume 1 & 2 Cassettes/Download (Woodford Halse)
These are perhaps the most beautifully packaged cassettes I've ever seen. The tapes, which are factory duplicated with on-body printing, are accompanied by a screen-printed J-card, with a full colour cigarette card style insert visible through a die-cut window on the front. Outer packaging comprises a plastic cassette box encased in a heavy card slipcase with a die-cut porthole which again shows a vignette from the sea monster-themed cigarette cards. I always appreciate it when I come across labels that go the extra mile with the visual and tangible side of their releases, treating the entire package as a work of art. Some of the music here treads a similar ground to the eerie electronics and drones on A Year in the Country's themed compilations - indeed, several regular AYITC contributors also appear here. There are also excursions into more overtly rock, dance, or classical-oriented territories, albeit rock, dance or classical with a decidedly experimental twist.
Volume 1 features Panamint Manse, with a 1980s-inspired piece that combines the dance music and the futuristic TV themes of that decade. Fuego combine elements of folk and post-rock, blending a gentle acoustic guitar melody with fuzzy drones. Revbjelde make experimental rock incorporating spacey electronics and a funky groove topped off by distorted shouty recitations. Time Attendant provide an oddly engaging mix of space age bleeps and whirrs, like incidental music from a 70s sci-fi TV show. Kersbergen and Janisch, i.e. Oliver Kersbergen and Katje Janisch, contribute a very beautiful atmospheric piece in which woozy experimental psychedelia meets medieval-esque folk, taking on board hammered dulcimer, lilting electronics and drones. Michael Plater straddles the boundaries between folk, post-rock, and 19th century classical music in his string-led instrumental The Spirit Medium. Floodlights appear with an innovative instrumental which brings together orchestral cinematic music and psychedelic electronic whirrs. 62 Miles from Space pull together dancey electronica and ethereal, spacey retrofuturism.
Midwich Youth Club open volume 2, taking a cheery tune reminiscent of vintage kids' TV show themes or fairground music and transforming it into a woozy, dreamlike, and slightly eerie brand of psychedelia. Azyss provide a thrumming, whirring analogue synth piece with a sinister undercurrent. Newlands appear with a very lovely melodic piece with neoclassical and folk elements, producing a strong sense of calm. Grey Frequency evoke the sounds of heavy industry with their mixture of slicing metallic noise and menacing drones. Bill Foreman's Flute Tune is no ordinary flute tune but a deeply evocative composition in which breathy, echoey flute and acoustic guitar create an eerie, tension-filled cinematic atmosphere. Slow Glass make 1980s-ish avant garde synth music combining ethereal aspects with a relentless electronic chug. Field Lines Cartographer contributes a beautiful cinematic piece entitled The Last Rain, which conjures up images of squalling wind and the plink of raindrops falling on a metal roof.
Woodford Halse is a real labour of love, in which equal importance is placed on the visual and aural components of the releases. Anyone who loves experimental and cinematic sounds cannot miss these tapes. Available at woodfordhalse.bandcamp.com
JACK ELLISTER Telegraph Hill LP/Download (You Are The Cosmos)
After a string of releases on Fruits de Mer Records, including two albums and various singles and compilation appearances, Jack Ellister has now moved to Spanish label You Are The Cosmos for his latest album. The album takes its name from South East London's Telegraph Hill, where Jack's home studio is located and most of the material here was recorded. The music has an emphasis on acoustic instrumentation, ranging from stripped-down folky songwriting such as Roots and Fill Another Glass, to more fleshed-out tracks like High Above Our Heads which comes across like a David Bowie song being covered by a psych band who have peppered the arrangement with lashings of soaring flute. Mind Maneuvers pairs sparse acoustic psych-folk with mindbending vintage synth. Reminder is acoustic folk-pop with nice medieval-tinged intricacies in the instrumental parts. Icon Chambers sets a trad folk-inspired tune to heady electronic accompaniment based around spacey bleeps and drones. Condors is impressive psych-folk incorporating didgeridoo, synth, slide guitar, and tribal-style percussion. The album shows yet another side to this multifaceted artist, and while different from his Fruits de Mer releases, it is no less essential. Available as of 27th November 2018 from www.youarethecosmos.com
TODD PARKER AND THE WITCHES Futuretripper (Bakery)
Latest album from Todd Parker of Tadpoles' current project. Pareidolia is a laid back and flowing psychedelic piece with an ethereal swirling nature that hints at shoegaze. Futuretripper is hazy psych-rock shot through with a funky groove. Sleeper combines elements of American folk with heady echoey effects. Pan American juxtaposes vocal samples about relaxation and healing with heavy-hitting psych-rock. No-one Needs to Own the Light combines classic psych-rock with inventive use of vocoder. Ziggy is a brief instrumental interlude in which sparse classical guitar intertwines with swirling atmospheric ambience. Careful What You Wish brings together raw DIY Americana with shimmering dreampop-esque atmospherics. Emeryville has a more electronic emphasis, built around synths, samples and heavy beats, but completely avoids sounding like an out of place dance track, remaining instead just as psychedelic as everything else here. An inventive album that's eclectic yet cohesive and has much to appeal to fans of vintage and more modern interpretations of psychedelia. Available at toddparkerandthewitches.bandcamp.com
DAVID CW BRIGGS Sick Notes CDR (Folk Archive)
The very prolific DIY recording artist David CW Briggs returns with a new CDR album, this one limited to just 17 copies. A digital download version is also available. Sick Note is raw garagey blues-rock with a touch of Syd Barrett-esque eccentricity. When You're Not Quite There is mellow psychedelic folk-rock ornamented by soaring woodwind. Where to Hide is part country stomp, part dreamy indiepop. That's the Way It's Supposed to Sound is noisepop propelled by an insistent chug. Never Trust an Artist (They are All Such Bastards) sets wry, laugh-out-loud humour to a minimal lo-fi strum-along. The songs are punctuated by instrumental interludes ranging from the murky, sludgy noisefest Temportal to the shimmering haze of Sea Lion to the stark, brooding Cat's Cradle. Another great set of tracks from DCWB, available at davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com
GAVIN JOHN BAKER & DAVID CW BRIGGS Escargot to Go CDR (Folk Archive)
The latest collaboration between Gavin John Baker (Billy Mahonie, Jet Johnson, The Baker Boys, Höglin Baker, Meets Guitar, Sightseers, etc) and David CW Briggs, recorded in UK and Norway and featuring guest drums from Gavin's son Albert. The cover features DCWB's surrealist collage art, the album's title reflected in its images of giant snails flying on the backs of birds. The music combines influences from vintage psychedelia and contemporary indie subgenres, resulting in tracks such as Groundhog Daze (bouncy yet hard-edged, with roots in the late 1960s), Come to the Fair (introspective lo-fi pop), Clockwork Seasons (psychedelic folk-rock that's mellow and intense all at once), Fortuna North (partway between psych-folk and dreampop, with woozy backwards effects), and Exquisite Copse (cheery psych-tinged indiepop giving way to a harder-edged psych-rock instrumental section). These two artists are extremely prolific but show no signs of running out of new creative ideas. Get the CD (limited to 50 copies) or digital download at
D. ROTHON Nightscapes LP (Clay Pipe Music)
David Rothon has been involved in a number of bands over the years, including Sore and Steal with Pale Saints' Ian Masters, Cloudier Skies with Claudia Barton, and his guest contribution of pedal steel on The Hanging Stars' album Over the Silvery Lake. His new solo album Nightscapes is a set of instrumental works evoking "recurring dreams, hypnagogic states, and half-sleep visions". In The Midnight Bell / I Have Been Here Before, ethereal pedal steel melts into a harmonica and mellotron composition with a sense of melancholic yearning. Waldeinsamkeit is a mournful cor anglais-led piece following in the footsteps of 19th century classical composers who drew inspiration from traditional folk music. Lonesome Depot sets weeping pedal steel to a backdrop of woozy drones and clattering rain. In These Quiet Streets pairs a lonesome harmonica - or perhaps a heavily processed cor anglais - with an otherworldly ambient shimmer against the sound of footsteps; a person walking alone, urgently, in a deserted street before dawn. The piece then abruptly shifts, in the manner of a dream, towards an ethereal outro of sighing pedal steel. Straight On Till Morning is, on the face of it, a chirpy tune that recalls vintage TV themes, yet closer listening reveals the hidden layer of eerie, otherworldly mystery lurking within. Unwoken City is a chilling cinematic ambient composition. The album closes with Mello Toning, in which twinkling electric piano leads a piece that swathes country-esque elements in a late-night sleepy haze. An album that transcends genre, taking in classical, country, film score, ambient and beyond to form a creative whole. The album is limited to 500 numbered copies on turquoise vinyl; it's not released until 14th December 2018 but be sure to get your orders in quickly, as like everything else on Clay Pipe Music, this is bound to sell out immediately. A download version will also be available. Visit www.claypipemusic.co.uk
MAGIC MOMENTS AT TWILIGHT TIME Creavolution Reborn: The Brain Dead Studio Analogue Remaster CD/Download (TMR)
Magic Moments at Twilight Time had been mainstays of the DIY cassette underground since the late 1980s, but took a different route for their 1995 album Creavolution, which instead of being recorded on 4-track and released as a homemade tape, was recorded at Brain Dead Studios and released as a factory pressed CD. The album has now been remastered by its original engineer, Brain Dead Studios' Marc Bell, and is available as a free download or cost-price CD. The CD is again professionally duplicated, and comes with an 8-page booklet featuring great cover art by Thayen Rich, featuring the band and Marc on a spaceship, as well as extensive liner notes about the album's history.
MMATT are a spacerock band, but one with a unique approach that takes on board an effective eclectic mix of other influences. The Starship Psychotron features swooshing and bubbling spacey synths and a Giorgio Moroder-esque electronic pulse as backdrop for a song that seems to gain inspiration from a mix of Blondie, 1950s rock 'n' roll, and sci-fi B-movies. Demonic Attack is a creative slice of gothic spacerock that incorporates a growly guitar sound, bleepy sci-fi synths, an opera singer, and orgasm noises! Purple Eyed and Mystified is a long time favourite of mine from this album, featuring tinges of Blondie alongside crunchy rock guitars, a dancey electronic beat and swirling analogue synths. Spirit Electric sets ghostly lyrics to a flamenco-influenced arrangement ornamented by electronic whooshes. Love Let Thy Name Be Darkness, another of my faves, is an inventive, well-crafted piece that manages to be poppy, spooky and spacey all at once - a true classic.
The album is full of original ideas, and despite the dark elements in some of the songs, still retains a strong sense of fun. Great to see it getting another outing in this new remastered form. The album is available from Marc Bell, whose contact details are included on the Music & Elsewhere / MMATT website www.mickmagic.net
VARIOUS The Corn Mother CD/Download (A Year in the Country)
The latest in AYITC's themed compilation series, and the first to be factory pressed, packaged in a gatefold wallet with sleeve notes explaining the album's premise. The Corn Mother purports to be a lost unreleased folk-horror movie from 1982. Whilst in fact completely imaginary, the film is described in the sleeve notes with a clarity of detail that persuades the reader to suspend disbelief. The nine tracks here act as a soundtrack to this imaginary film. Gavino Morretti combines early 1980s electronica with dramatic, evocative soundtrack music. Pulselovers create eerily hypnotic music combining vintage electronics with repeated lyrics that evoke both gruesome playground rhyme and ritualistic chant. The Heartwood Institute contribute a tense and unsettling slice of electronic soundtrack music. United Bible Studies, who on this recording comprise band founder David Colohan alongside Dominic Cooper of The Owl Service and Alison O'Donnell of Mellow Candle and Flibbertigibbet, provide a chilling piece of incidental music in which otherworldly murmurs are interwoven with unsettling soundscaping. A Year in the Country provide an experimental soundscape using rumbling, pulsing and humming noise to create a strong sense of unease. Depatterning combine found sounds with surreal electronics, the piece's various sections drifting in and out in the manner of a dream. Widow's Weeds includes former members of The Hare and the Moon; they contribute an exceptional dark folk track setting truly beautiful vocals to a chilling mix of woozy electronics and intense neoclassical film music. Sproatly Smith provide an inventive instrumental that pulls together fluttering, whirring and chugging experimental sound effects, vintage-style electronica, and a very lovely psych-folk guitar melody, creating a highly effective whole. Field Lines Cartographer appears with an absorbing piece of experimental music in which forceful, ritualistic rhythms collide with mechanistic, dreamlike and eerie electronic sounds. An engaging album in which the apparently disparate genres of folk music and experimental electronica sit perfectly well together as different expressions of the same basic idea. More information at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk
WHOLE Bias CD/Cassette/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Earlier this issue I reviewed The Straight and the Curly by Alexander Leonard Donat's project Fir Cone Children. Alexander is also involved in several other bands besides Fir Cone Children, one of which is the duo WHOLE, a collaboration with Thomas Schernikau. This CD is packaged with a keen eye for graphic design, with a hand assembled wallet with photographic art inspired by modernist architecture. Lust/Terror is dark-edged early 80s-inspired synthpop reminiscent of Depeche Mode. Get Away is a forceful mix of punky/noisy elements and uptempo electronic pulses, occasionally softened by an ethereal atmosphere. Tides Made By Our Hands is chilling, cinematic synthpop dissolving into stark, atmospheric melancholia. What Scares You is an angular, disorienting piece blending dark synthpop with a strong sense of experimentation. Evenwicht begins with a shoegaze-esque wall of noise, giving way to a juxtaposition of fragile melancholia, industrial clangs and dark dramatic pop. Tongue to Machine evokes a futuristic dystopia with its use of vocoder and mechanistic electronic rhythms. Berghain is impassioned, dramatic pop effectively accompanied by plaintive piano, shuffly electronic beats and woozy guitar atmospherics. A highly accomplished album with equal appeal to retro pop, electronica, goth, and experimental audiences. Available at blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com
SONGS OF MY LAP Bring Your Noize CDR/Download (Folk Archive)
Nine tracks taken from two recently unearthed recording sessions from 2008-2009, released as a CDR limited to 20 copies in handmade, ink-stamped recycled card covers, or digital download. Eight Year Old Boy Hanging From a Tree sets harrowing lyrics to sparse guitar and melancholic cello, coming across like a folkier version of early Hood. Like Sleds in the Snow is introspective folk-pop ornamented by the soft ting of a glockenspiel; a very lovely, moving piece. The Day They Tore Down the Sports Hall is poignant nostalgic folk giving way to an unsettling, evocative mix of rumbling distorted guitar and dolorous neoclassical cello. You and I We Are In This Thing Together features observational lyrics alongside mournful cinematic cello and an insistent repetitive riff tinged with a Hood-esque dissonance. Pumpkinhead is fractured minimalistic bedroom pop with folky undertones. A genre-defying album spanning folk, classical and hometaper influences, which is melancholic and often unsettling yet always compelling. Available at davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com
DOTSCHY REINHARDT Chaplin's Secret CD (Galileo Music Communication)
EL MURO TANGO & JUAN VILLAREAL Nostálgico CD (Galileo Music Communication)
BRANKO GALOIC & FRANCISCO CORDOVIL One With the Wind CD (Galileo Music Communication)
Three new albums from world music label Galileo. Dotschy Reinhardt is a musician and political activist campaigning against discrimination of the Sinti and Roma. Coming from a Sinti background herself, her latest album Chaplin's Secret is inspired by a letter received by Charlie Chaplin in which he was told that rather than having been born in London as he'd stated in his biography, he was born on a field in Birmingham which was used as a caravan site by Sinti and Roma showmen, his mother being an artist who travelled with her father's circus and had only settled in London at a later date. Accompanied by an international band whose members come from Sweden, Siberia, Ukraine, Australia, Italy and Israel, Dotschy incorporates a variety of influences from across the spectrum of jazz. Django's Tiger is an uplifting song which sets new lyrics to a piece by Dotschy's renowned relative Django Reinhardt; Romanes is a strong call for the preservation of the Romani language within a lively bossa nova setting; Fly Away is wistful singer-songwriter pop with jazz leanings; Here Goes brings together elements of Frank Sinatra and Django Reinhardt; Brazilian carnival music is represented by Carnaval no Rio; and of course Charlie Chaplin himself appears on the album via the nicely pensive cover of his Swing Little Girl.
Argentinian vocalist and guitarist Juan Villareal joins up with chamber orchestra El Muro Tango, comprised of Argentinian and Norwegian musicians. The album is appropriately named, based around classical- and jazz-infused tango that evokes an earlier age. There are impassioned vocal tracks, and instrumentals that recall music from black and white movies. Pieces range from the antique-style dance tune La Vieja Serenata to the dramatic mix of frenzy and melancholy that is Recuerdo, which has a more modernistic approach yet surprisingly was composed two decades earlier in the 1920s.
My favourite album of the three is One With the Wind, an enjoyable folk-fusion album from the guitar duo Branko Galoic and Francisco Cordovil, who seamlessly combine Balkan and Iberian musics with influences from other genres. There's lightning-fast virtuoso guitar work that at times blurs the boundaries between flamenco and rock. The title track has shades of Greek folk, bringing in a guitar that's played much like a bouzouki; Bossa Balkaniossa is, as the title suggests, Balkan bossa nova; White Lies merges Balkan folk and flamenco with a bendy angularity akin to avant garde rock; Devil's Dance is an intense piece with some surprisingly psychedelic moments, and Andreia combines gentle bossa-tinged music with blistering bluesy rock. An impressive melange of styles that works really well.
More info at www.galileomusic.de
THE CONTRAST Madhouse of Inventions CD/Download (Secret Shark via CDBaby)
Eighth album from this long-running Peterborough-based band led by Glasgow-born songwriter David Reid. The album follows on from the greatness of their earlier releases, being packed full of super-melodic, gutsy guitar pop songs. Before this Caper Goes Down is powerful harmony-pop informed by 1960s country-rock and psychedelia. What Do You Get is janglepop tinged with folk, with effective use of violin and piano alongside the chiming guitar. Updates critiques the banalities of social media ("Updates on my wall, updates of updates, so much stuff that I don't wanna know") within an ultra-jangly psychedelic powerpop setting. Passion is spiky pop combining strong melody and vocal harmonies with a powerpop chug. Intelligent Life serves up its pop with a large helping of surrealism, the strong, catchy tune incorporated into a bendy, angular arrangement. A superb album that fans of the powerpop/janglepop/psych/US folk-rock output of Sugarbush Records would do well to check out. More info at www.thecontrast.net
NATIONAL PASTIME Summer Days CD/Download (Pastime)
Exeter indiepoppers National Pastime, who include amongst them Phil Andrews (ex-Morrisons) and Andy Botterill (aka Andy B), return with a new live album recorded at The Cavern Club, Exeter, in June 2018. The album is available as a factory-pressed CDR in digipak, or a download is also available. There are 10 songs, raw and unadorned with no apparent overdubs, and interspersed with the crowd noise and between-song banter you'd expect of a live recording. The band's main influence is 1980s indiepop, whether spiky (Find a Better Day), wistful (Summer Haze), or sunny (Sunshine Calls). Footsteps in the Snow is very much in the spirit of early indiepop, recalling bands such as the Television Personalities and The Pastels. Yet National Pastime are unafraid to incorporate other influences that are off-limits to indiepop purists. Bitter End is dark and angular whilst also owing a surprising debt to bluesy classic rock. Since I Met You has an almost gothic bleakness paired with an impassioned punk chorus. Do What You Do has one foot in the indiepop world with its romantic handholding and sha-la-las, but throws the popkids a curveball with its hypnotic psych-rock riffage. When Angels Come to Town has shades of both Brighter and East River Pipe, whilst also adding a sense of discordance from the off-centre drumming style. Find out more at pastimerecords.webs.com; the digital version is available at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com
DYLAN WALSHE All Manner of Ways CD/LP/Download (self-released)
Dylan Walshe is an Irish singer-songwriter currently based in Nashville. Following releases on the Squoodge, Voodoo Rhythm, and Muddy Roots labels, he now returns with his debut studio album, which is self-released, although you wouldn't immediately guess as it eschews the DIY look of many self-released albums in favour of slick packaging with a standard of graphic design that's easily on a par with that of much bigger labels. Here Dylan is joined by a variety of guest musicians, including The Pogues' James Fearnley, and Andy Gibson from Hank Williams III's band. Dylan's music has been praised by Christy Moore, and he has appeared on bills alongside a diverse selection of big names ranging from Donovan to NOFX. Evidently he is an artist who is happy to release his music the underground way whilst also having contacts within the established music biz. Irish folk meets bleak and melancholic alt-country in Blind is Blind, while Luck is a Beggar, Luck is a King is folk-tinged country-rock enveloped in weeping steel guitar. Where Dublin Meets Wicklow is laid-back country incorporating ethereal, dreamlike use of accordion. Death Dance is an intense mix of dark country-rock and powerful, ecstatic fiddle and mandolin-based folk. Cut it Down is an impassioned song akin to Sixteen Horsepower, the accompaniment including some exceptional use of fiddle, the sheer power and searing noise of which rivals that of any heavy rock guitarist. Lady Lee has an atmospheric starkness, being stripped down to just voice, acoustic guitar and fiddle. This is a superbly crafted album from a highly talented songwriter and backing band. The music has a breathtaking intensity and atmospheric beauty which sets it far, far apart from run-of-the-mill commercialised country. Find out more at www.dylanwalshe.com
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