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SUSAN JAMES Sea Glass LP (Sunstone)
Susan James has been releasing music since 1990, mostly on her own label and in the country-pop or modern folk idioms. For her latest album Sea Glass, originally self-released on CD in 2015 and now reissued on vinyl through Sunstone, she has teamed up with co-arranger Sean O'Hagan (Microdisney, High Llamas, Stereolab) and a whole mini-orchestra of guest musicians on strings, brass, woodwind and more, to create a style of music aptly described as California Hybrid. Susan has most definitely outdone herself with this album, which is jaw-droppingly amazing and sounds like a genuine lost classic of the late 1960s. The country aspect of her earlier recordings has been replaced with luxurious orchestrated pop, tinged at times with psych and folk, that needs to be heard to be fully appreciated.
Poseidon's Daughter is multifaceted, sophisticated, harmony-driven psychedelic folk-pop. Awful Lot is soft, airy, sunny pop with retro keyboards alongside sweeping orchestration. The Invisible Mrs Lee is a new song exclusive to this reissue; 60s-inspired pop-psych, lushly arranged with bouncing, lilting Wurlitzer organ, brass orchestration and vocal harmonies. Sea Glass is deeply moving psych-folk, of immense melancholic beauty. Truth or Consequence is amazingly catchy summer pop with soaring vocal harmonies recalling The Free Design, or if The Beach Boys were The Beach Girls! Tell Me Cosmo is perhaps the most overtly psychedelic track here, in which bright sunny pop is accompanied by a driving hypnotic bass line, lilting Mellotron, cosmic sci-fi bleeps and soaring flute, the different sections of the track segueing into one another in the manner of a dream.
This new LP edition is on beautiful deep aquamarine vinyl, with reworked vintage-style cover art by Alan Outram, which even has creases built into the design to give the feel of a frequently-revisited long-time favourite. A full colour insert on heavy card is also included, with notes from Sean O'Hagan and Sunstone boss Sie Norfolk, in DIY handwritten collage style. It's still early days for this album but it has already created quite a buzz, including a 5-star review in Shindig!, and deservedly so. This album really is something special. Whilst the music has roots in the 1960s, Susan James' considerable originality and talent makes this something far more than just a simple retro pastiche. Without a doubt, this album is destined to be hailed as a true classic. Limited to 300 copies - get it while you still can at www.sunstonerecords.co.uk

VARIOUS The 16th Dream of Dr Sardonicus double LP (Fruits de Mer)
Live recordings from 2018's 16th Dream of Dr Sardonicus festival at the Cellar Bar in Cardigan are now captured on four sides of coloured vinyl in gatefold sleeve. The festival celebrates a broad range of music that falls under the psychedelic umbrella, with familiar Fruits de Mer names like Stay and Sendelica alongside a good mix of long-established and newer artists, the best known being Nik Turner.
Elfin Bow appears with a stripped-down solo version of Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where the Time Goes, which she had previously released in lavish orchestral form on her debut 7" for Fruits de Mer. She follows this with Grimshaw and the Finger Claw, an amazing traditional folk-inspired song oozing with eeriness and melancholy. This is my favourite song on this live LP and it's got me very keen to hear the original studio version. I Am Voyager 1 set a folk-tinged song to a hypnotic psych-rock arrangement. Stay cover Buffalo Springfield's Rock 'n' Roll Woman, with lashings of retro organ and wild psychedelic guitar. Consterdine make instrumental spacerock with experimental and prog elements. Fellowship of Hallucinatory Voyagers' piece begins as meandering, floaty psychedelic instrumental music with birdsong samples providing a nice pastoral effect, before taking on a rockier sound that juxtaposes forceful guitars and clanging percussion with soaring flute.
The Alain Pire Experience make hard-hitting late 60s-influenced rock with wild guitar soloing and trippy lyrics. Sendelica's BS is a heavy psych instrumental starting with a basis in 1970s hard rock and adding in flowing sax with an often improvisational character. The Fertility Cult are coming from a similar direction as Sendelica with their mix of heavy vintage rock, wild improvisational sax, and elements that resemble an eerie sci-fi film score. Nik Turner's New Space Ritual round off the album with two tracks of intense spacerock setting recited lyrics to a heady mix of heavy guitars, improvisational sax, and whirring, fizzing and whooshing analogue synths. Find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2019.