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

ALBUM REVIEWS

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

ASTRALASIA A Different Kettle of Fish double LP (Fruits de Mer)
Psych/dance/ambient pioneers Astralasia, formed in 1990 by Marc Swordfish, have in recent years released two double albums on Fruits de Mer, as well as providing remixes and reinventions of other FdM bands' tracks for limited edition releases on the label. A selection of tracks from these special editions, bonus CDs, and other limited releases has now been compiled on this new double LP alongside a handful of new reworkings exclusive to this album. Johnny's Little Brainticket (Lounge Mix) combines intense organ and guitar jamming with dance beats; Sargasso Sea is a relaxing, floaty ambient piece incorporating neoclassical piano; the remix of The Chemistry Set's Love or Confusion brings together sitar, tablas, psych-folk guitar and dancey electronics; Shamanic Waterfall is atmospheric ambient psychedelia; and Timothy Leary Forever is a remix of The Chemistry Set's Legend of a Mind, superb 60s-influenced psych-pop with chiming guitar, sitar and tablas, alongside echoey samples of Timothy Leary's speech and dreamlike ambient electronics. Available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

ANDREAS ARNOLD Odisea CD (Galileo/Bayla)
RASGUEO Echo CD (Galileo)
ESPOO BIG BAND Espoo Suite CD (Galileo)

Three new releases from world music label Galileo. Andreas Arnold creates a natural, seamless combination of jazz and flamenco on his third album Odisea. There's the gentle Cai-BK, and the busy, frenetic Alas al Alma. Alikianos is a meditative and contemplative violin-led piece with a sophisticated folk-jazz feel akin to some of the music on the ECM label. Tangos Arabe introduces Arabic chanting alongside intricate electric guitar and flamenco guitar and woozy psychedelic backwards effects.
Rasgueo's Echo features the compositions of flamenco guitarist Nikos Tsiachris, whose solo album Alcance I reviewed last issue. He is joined here on trumpet and flugelhorn by Martin Auer, with drums and bass from Diego Pińera and Martin Lillich respectively, creating an overall sound which again combines jazz and flamenco, but in a different way to Andreas Arnold. Guajiras de Graciela is a multifaceted piece that begins with a soft, gentle guitar intro that will surely remind indiepop fans of Blueboy, a band who were of course just as informed by jazz and classical as indiepop. Flamenco touches, intense improvisational drumming and soaring brass make up other parts of the track. Dreieck combines a plaintive sense of longing with an angular dissonance, while Ilusiones brings in a dreamlike quality. The album is rounded off with a performance of the classical piece Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, reinvented as arty jazz-flamenco with an eclectic approach, in which frenetic dissonance coexists with melodic beauty.
Espoo Big Band were also featured in last issue's article on the Galileo label; they return with their latest album Espoo Suite, a tribute to their home city of Espoo in Finland, using free-associative composing to bring forward the spirit of the city. Quiet Flows the Aspen River has room for slowly meandering sections and frenetic improvisations. Igor's Lament has a vintage film soundtrack feel, combining classical and jazz into a big, dramatic sound with a bold rhythmic backbone. Moonshine Chase continues in the film score vein, sounding like music from a 1960s action movie. Finale takes in abstract noise-rock, prog, and avant-garde improvisation alongside more traditional big band jazz. Despite its title, Finale isn't actually the album's final track - that is Espoo Blues, a rip-roaring jazz-blues extravaganza complete with crowd noise and fireworks, that even seems to be nodding towards Ravel's Boléro at one point and circus music at another. Jazz is a broad church - more of an umbrella term than a single genre - and Espoo Big Band do much to illustrate that fact. Find out more at www.galileo-mc.de

GAVIN JOHN BAKER Songs for My Wife CDR (Folk Archive)
Prolific songwriter & musician Gavin John Baker, also known for his recent collaborations with David CW Briggs and previous work with Jet Johnson, Billy Mahonie, Höglin Baker, Meets Guitar and more, returns with this new solo album. Gavin plays all instruments here except drums which are contributed by his son Albert who is just 9 years old and something of a musical prodigy. Plod Song is noisy powerpop along similar lines to early Teenage Fanclub. This Night is very lovely jangly indiepop. Lights Up is dark, on-edge noisepop with an innovative rhythmic, almost electronic sounding use of guitar, evoking an image of flickering lights. Song for My Wife is alt-country with jangly and noisy moments. One How You Go is an effective mix of folk-rock, psych and noisepop. An engaging album with much to recommend to fans of noisepop, janglepop and Americana alike. Available on CDR limited to just 17 copies, or digital download, from davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com

KITCHEN CYNICS Robin & His Friends: Circuit-Bent Nursery Rhymes CDR (Les Enfants du Paradiddle)
This latest homemade CDR from Alan Davidson's prolific psych-folk project Kitchen Cynics includes eight musical adaptations of nursery rhymes, featuring extra verses and new tunes. The sleeve features Alan's trademark collage art, combining Victorian whimsy with surrealism. Nursery rhymes may be aimed at children, but for many of these rhymes, there is nothing twee or innocent about them. Just as with fairy tales and folk ballads, they can be violent and gruesome, or darkly supernatural, and the versions here are often in that spirit. Jenny Wren Got Sick is both airy and eerie, with a traditional folk-inspired tune wrapped in a hazy psychedelic cloud. Witch Transformation Rhyme is Isobel Gowdie's shapeshifting spell, set to a darkly beautiful and authentically traditional-sounding melody, creating a deeply moving listening experience. The Robin & the Wren is musically and lyrically melancholic, with ethereal, dreamlike echoey accompaniment. Robin Gets Lost in the Dark Rhymes is the most overtly experimental piece here with its brooding, dissonant rumbles and semi-abstract sound effects. A highly creative album that's eerily beautiful and very much recommended. Available at kitchencynics.bandcamp.com

ANTON BARBEAU Berliner Grotesk CD (Pink Hedgehog / Beehive)
Anton Barbeau's latest album was recorded at various locations across Germany, USA and UK, and is mostly Anton solo, except for three tracks that each feature a guest musician, namely Morris Windsor (The Soft Boys, Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians) on drums, multimedia artist and Beehive label owner Julia VBH on vocals, and Paul Kuchenbuch on trumpet. The album opens with the lopsided oompah cabaret of the title track, and also includes a cover of The Beatles' Love Me Do, reinvented as one part reggae, one part early 80s synthpop. Down Weird Dog is an amusing tale of the pros and cons of dog ownership, Anton's wit exemplified in lyrics like "You might be god in a backwards way, but you're a little too forward with my leg today". The humour of the song is offset by its melancholic arrangement, pairing stark piano with spacey vintage synth. The Gruff Exterminator is psychedelic synthpop setting surreal humour to a hugely catchy melody. don'tforgettogetyourfingerwet is infectious summery powerpop with a quirky edge, incorporating an extravagant synth solo that lends a prog touch to the piece. Final song Boxcat Blues features a pensive, melancholic melody and piano arrangement combined with ethereal electronics and contrasted with Anton's absurdist, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Poppy and catchy yet with a sense of the bizarre, the album is available in the UK from www.pinkhedgehog.com and in USA from beehivesound.com

ARTHUR & MARTHA Adjustments CD (Happy Robots)
Arthur & Martha was the project of Adam Cresswell (aka Rodney Cromwell, and formerly of Saloon) and Alice Hubley (Alice Hubble/Mass Datura), who used toy electronics, old keyboards and cheap drum machines to create a style of music that has been described as "cutie krautrock" or "tweetronica". Following their debut (and sole) album Navigation, Arthur & Martha had plans for a remix album, but this was shelved, Adam and Alice concentrating instead on their solo projects. Some years later, they discovered just how popular Navigation was among their fans. Buoyed up by the new exposure the album had started getting, they decided to reform for a final show in March 2019 and finish their remix album. The album, Adjustments, features remixes from the band's original period alongside more recent ones, remixers including Happy Robots-associated acts alongside those from other labels, such as Ghost Box/Proper Songs' Hong Kong in the 60s and Polytechnic Youth's Gabe Knox.
Autovia (Gabe Knox Remix) is melancholic minor-chord indiepop wrapped in a shimmer of spacey synths, with motorik chug and vocoder lending a Kraftwerk-esque feel to the piece. Kasparov (Katsen's One Chip Samba Remix) combines the classic indiepop sound from the Sarah Records era with bleepy vintage electronics straight out of a retro video game. Vallorian appears in two very different forms, first remixed by Tears Run Rings, a great slice of soaring atmospheric shoegaze, and then by Hong Kong in the 60s who reinvent it as synth-driven samba! Navigation (Pattern Language Remix) is kind of like a mix of Heavenly and The Field Mice set to retro synthpop with an experimental edge. Ultra-Alliance (Alice Hubble Remix) combines gentle synth-woodwind with booming percussion. Japanese Kiss (Rodney Cromwell Remix) is space-age indiepop with vocoder and effervescent electronics.
Hologram Teen (aka Morgane Lhote, ex-Stereolab) remixes Follow the Path, bursting with cut-up samples, riffs and beats, much like a more woozy and experimental version of late-80s house. This City Life (Brutalist Architecture in the Sun Remix) combines dreamlike arpeggios, a bleak early 80s synth riff, and thumping dance beats to maximum effect. Autovia 2 (Monster Bobby Remix) pairs eerie wordless chanting with mechanistic rhythms, resulting in an innovative and engaging brand of experimental electronica. A great album of electronic indiepop, bringing together elements of Sarah Records, Kraftwerk, 80s synthpop, dance music and retro-futurism into a cohesive whole. Available at www.happyrobots.co.uk

VARIOUS The Watchers CD (A Year in the Country)
The latest installment in A Year in the Country's themed compilation series takes as its inspiration the ancient oak, ash and yew trees that have lived for hundreds of years (even thousands in the case of yews) here in Britain. The album's title refers to these venerable trees' role as observers of the changing times and the events that have shaped history throughout the centuries. In common with past compilations in the series, The Watchers shows how folk, electronica and abstract experimental music can act as different paths up the same mountain as it were, using these different musical forms to express the same spirit of an idea.
It's about time the Kitchen Cynics contributed to one of these compilations, and here we have a collaboration between the Kitchen Cynics and Widow's Weeds (ex-The Hare and the Moon), a prime slice of eerie experimental folk, bringing together authentically traditional-style folk song, soaring woodwind, evocative drones and classical violin. In-house project A Year in the Country contrasts a busy electronic buzz with a gentle ambient hum, using sound to highlight the differences between humans' and trees' basic ways of being, the former with their excitability and constant activity and the latter who "have been quietly doing the self-same for nearly all of time". Sproatly Smith's Watching You is told from the perspective of a tree, lamenting humans' destructive lack of regard for the environment within a beautiful and inventive psych-folk setting.
Howlround's piece is shaped from field recordings made at an ancient oak believed to be more than 800 years old, the final result eerie and brooding with the feel of incidental music from a chilling movie. Elsewhere on the album, Field Lines Cartographer's electronic shimmer evokes images of falling leaves; Vic Mars makes electronic neoclassical music with dreamlike, filmic aspects; Pulselovers contribute a synth and guitar instrumental shot through with pulsating arpeggios; and Depatterning provide a woozy and arresting mix of electronic noise-effects and found sounds.
The CD is packaged in the label's signature style, in two different handcrafted editions. For those who prefer digital, the album is also available through the usual download and streaming platforms. Find out more at www.ayearinthecountry.co.uk

FEVERDREAMT Melantant CD/Cassette/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Prolific musician Alexander Leonard Donat has appeared in these pages before with his other projects Fir Cone Children, WHOLE, and Vlimmer. He returns with another solo project, Feverdreamt, whose album Melantant is packaged in the hand-assembled style expected from Blackjack Illuminist, with real photographs glued onto a foldout card wallet. The album is a soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic story of humans rediscovering a desolate Earth three hundred years after destroying the planet and colonising another world. The music is experimental yet song-based, with an unsettling mood, featuring lyrics sung in an imaginary language to create an extra layer of mystery. Xhanta is bleak experimental electronica swathed in icily atmospheric guitar noise. Saije Daije is brooding, ethereal darkwave incorporating plaintive chanting and eerie neoclassical tinges. Se Dun Se Dun is soaring yet mournful experimental pop held up by a relentless electronic throb wrapped in glacial guitar effects. Fjellé is a gothic folk chant backed by sombre piano and dulcimer, having shades of Dead Can Dance. Ŕ Yun features cheery la-la-las contrasting sharply with woozy, feverish and spooky electronica. Fon Teyn La includes neomedieval chanting set to a backdrop of underwater electronics and slicing noise. A chilling and atmospheric album with a great deal of musical innovation - available at blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com

HANTERHIR Songs We Learned in Cornish and Our Hour CDs/Downloads (Easy Action)
2018 saw the release of Hanterhir's critically acclaimed epic triple album The Saving of Cadan. Whilst this was many people's - including my own - introduction to Hanterhir, the band have actually been around since 2009. Material from their self-released back catalogue has now been rescued from obscurity by Easy Action Records, who have issued two new anthologies of recordings from across the band's ten year existence.
Songs We Learned in Cornish covers tracks with Cornish lyrics, along with a handful of songs in English that take their inspiration from Cornish landscape or customs. Tekka Ha Hwekka is a unique mix of noisy alt-rock, wailing sax and dreamlike psych-folk. Om Gonfort Suite starts off as a synth-driven neoclassical prog-folk instrumental, taking on board mournful piano, found sounds and dancey electronic beats, before jolting the listener with a burst of brutal, squalling noise-rock. The Carn Marth Song is an ingenious psychedelic-folk-punk concoction with a relentless marching-band rhythm. Whatever Happened to Whitford? blends woozy MBV-esque noise with psych-folk violin meanderings. Onan Dew Tri is bouncy and catchy with a nursery rhyme or playground chant type tune set to an enjoyably bizarre mix of retro-futuristic electronics, military drums and pealing bells. A couple of songs from The Saving of Cadan that fit with the theme of this compilation are also included here as an introduction to that album.
Our Hour is just over an hour's worth of songs, mostly with English lyrics, plus a revisiting of the noisy portion of the Cornish song Omgonfort. This album brings Hanterhir's alt-rock influence to the fore, whilst seasoning the genre with the eclecticism that is a trademark of the band. Just the Way it Goes is heavy-hitting alternative rock with riotous squalling guitars. Radio Song brings together American folk-rock, jangly indiepop and driving noisepop. Better Man is raw, chuggy noisepop similar in some ways to the sort of sounds released by American labels such as Merge and Matador in the 1990s, but given an effective twist by the use of violin. Stay Down is alt-rock incorporating shoegaze, psych and folk influences. Soul Train is brooding post-punk/alt-rock with eerie dark-folk violin and experimental noise effects. Jevan combines bright jangly summer pop, meditative psych-tinged indie-folk, and airy dreampop atmospherics. Buy the albums at www.easyaction.co.uk

DAVID CW BRIGGS You're a Snow Globe Baby, I Wanna Give You a Shake CDR (Folk Archive)
New album from the very prolific hometaper David CW Briggs, combining eclectic influences under a broadly psychedelic umbrella. A Ton of Bricks is heavy-hitting vintage-style psych rock. You're a Snow Globe Baby, I Wanna Give You a Shake brings together bits of quirky lo-fi pop, Syd Barrett, wailing blues harmonica and intense psych rock guitar. Grey Light is a mellow, dreamlike song bridging the gap between 1970s electric folk and the melancholic indiepop of the early 1990s - very lovely stuff. Drop Shadow Blues Part Two is scuzzy, distorted psychedelic blues-rock. A Bunch of Fives is minimalistic off-centre pop with a homemade, lo-fi charm. Available on CDR limited to just 15 copies, or digital download. Visit davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com

THE GOLD NEEDLES Through a Window CD (Jem)
Last issue I reviewed the two singles on Fruits de Mer of recently unearthed gems from early 1990s jangly indiepop band Moloko+ (not to be confused with the better known Moloko, who were around later). Nowadays, Moloko+'s Simon Dowson is vocalist/guitarist with Hull powerpop/janglepop band The Gold Needles, whose second album Through a Window is out now on relaunched US label Jem Records. This label was originally founded in the 1970s, with a wide range of both big-name and cult artists on its roster, while its new incarnation has a more specific focus on powerpop and related genres, having released albums by the likes of The Grip Weeds and Nick Piunti.
Sunset Girl is 60s-influenced jangly pop beefed up with powerpop grit - a really great, uplifting song. There's a cover of the Monkees song I'm Gonna Try, setting sunny 60s pop to a mix of Sea Urchins-esque jangle, keyboard orchestration and meaty powerpop guitar solos. Here She Goes Again is janglepop with shades of The Byrds; its dreamy, summery sound is sure to appeal equally to fans of 60s music and jangly indiepop alike. Winning a Losing Game emphasises the powerpop side of the band while also being unafraid to step outside of powerpop norms. As well as the pairing of catchy melody and punked-up guitars you'd expect from the genre, The Gold Needles also incorporate an effervescent keyboard rhythm which adds an 80s synthpop dimension to the song with effective results.
Girl You Will Be Mine is cheery retro pop with triumphant bursts of brass and harmony vocals alongside chiming jangly guitar. Another cover version follows, The Shoemaker of Leatherwear Square, originally by The Lemon Pipers. This is more overtly psychedelic than The Gold Needles' own material but just as enjoyable - a kaleidoscopic, fantastical song that sets fairytale-ish lyrics to slightly eerie and folk-tinged psych-pop. This is a truly great janglefest of an album, spanning classic 1960s sounds, powerpop, prime-period indiepop, and even vintage rock at times with some of the heavier guitar work that appears now and then. Very highly recommended. More info on The Gold Needles at their Facebook page. Label info at www.jemrecordings.com

JUJU Maps and Territory CD/LP/Download (Fuzz Club)
Third album from Juju, the current project of Sicilian musician Gioele Valenti (Herself, Lay Llamas). I'm in Trance features a guest appearance from Goatman of Goat; this is a powerful slice of neo-psychedelia, incorporating atmospherically distorted drawn-out vocals, African percussion and blistering psych-rock guitar. Motherfucker Core is an inventive melange of sounds; it draws from Kosmische Musik with its use of retro synth and the relentless hypnotic chug that forms its backbone, while also taking on board grinding guitar noise, sleazy psych-blues, echoes of Mediterranean folk, and heady rhythms that vary from the tribal to the technological. If You Will Fall brings psych, noise, electronic, jazz, film score and world music together into a cohesive whole. Archontes Take Control features guest saxophonist Amy Denio; dreamlike modern jazz, folk motifs, fractured spacey noise and heavy-hitting psych-rock are combined here to create an intelligent, innovative form of instrumental music that is as catchily melodic as it is avant-garde. An original, genre-transcending album - get it at fuzzclub.com

THE BLACK WATCH Magic Johnson CD/Download (Atom)
The 17th album from this long-running band led by multi-instrumentalist songwriter John Andrew Fredrick, who is joined here by various additional musicians including Rob Campanella (The Tyde, Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Scott Campbell (Acetone, Carina Round, Stevie Nicks), the latter of whom is also the album's producer. The music has a sophisticated and atmospheric sound which combines Californian powerpop and janglepop, the proto-indiepop from the post-punk era, psychedelia, dreampop, and influences from the Flying Nun label. April Fools takes a chugging powerpop rhythm and slows it right down, adding shoegazey atmospherics and mournful trumpet as backdrop for an elegant pop song with echoes of the early 1980s. Eustacia's Dream is appropriately dreamlike, with hazy reverbed guitars and airy keyboard. Me & You & Me gives jangly psychedelia a dark, foreboding edge. Oh Mary is a really moving song with a perfect combination of chiming guitar, fuzzy noise and swirling ethereal keyboard. Also included on the album are four additional tracks, collectively entitled The Paper Boats EP, where you will find a seamless combination of 1980s indiepop, dreampop ethereality, the crunchy chug of powerpop, jangly guitars, and sunny 60s-ish vocal harmonies. A really great album, very much recommended. Find out more at www.facebook.com/theblackwatchmusic, www.johnandrewfredrick.com, and www.atomrecords.com

oG Water Birds CDR/Download (oG Musique)
oG's latest album takes inspiration from Una Woodruff's Inventorum Natura, an illustrated book that purports to be a translation of a lost manuscript by Pliny the Elder, all about fantastical animals, plants and places supposedly encountered by the Roman naturalist on his travels. The CD includes 14 tracks by multi-instrumentalist oG, accompanied by his collaborators The Dudes, plus percussion from Will Z and vocals from Alice Artaud, presented within nicely put together handmade packaging featuring art by Una Woodruff.
While previous album Out of the Darkness tended towards a psych-folk emphasis, Water Birds focuses mainly on oG's more experimental side. Insects Generated by Plants is a spacey ambient psych instrumental in which experimental psych-folk based around sitar and bells gives way to pulsing, whirring retro-futuristic electronica. The Pyralis is full of bizarre whirrs and boings and angular tangents leading up to a chaotic crescendo, sounding like the musical equivalent of a Heath Robinson contraption exploding. The Arimaspians lurches around like Captain Beefheart or the weirder C86 bands, the spiky guitar interwoven with Buddhist meditation bells and the rumblings and burblings of retro synths. The Gold Bee is like mellow US-style folk-rock played in outer space. The Blemmyae is a surreal mix of 1960s spy movie soundtrack, twisty-turny prog and spacey sound effects. Perytons is built around throaty riffage that harks back to the behemoths of 1970s hard rock, adding improvisational psychedelic meanderings to the mix. Hyperborean Frogs is a disorienting, feverish, semi-abstract piece in which jumping frog sounds collide with avant garde jazz undercurrents. Water Birds is gentle and ethereal, with woozy use of slide guitar and soaring angelic wordless vocals.
An eclectic, surreal, musically adventurous album; one of the most avant garde things I've covered in a while. Find out more at ogmusique.bandcamp.com

SUNDAY MORNING Four CD/LP/Download (Bronson)
Sunday Morning are an Italian band headed up by songwriter Andrea Cola. Their first incarnation existed between 1998 and 2007; after going on hiatus for a few years, they returned with a new line-up in 2015, and now release their fourth album, straightforwardly titled Four. This is primarily an Americana album, but also takes on board influences from classic pop and rock as well as some more underground sounds. If I Go is stark country-rock backed by an ambient hum. Power is great Americana-infused indie pop with an addictive melody accompanied by bright jangly riffage and a pulsating, driving rhythm. Dreamer is sophisticated retro songwriting, rather like a mix of ELO, Elton John and late-period Beatles. Lovers & Tramps is American-style folk-rock pairing sunny jangle with pensive piano. May Your Heart is minimalistic, introspective, mandolin-led Americana fleshed out with a string section. We Were Wrong seamlessly combines Americana and bedroom pop, with hushed vocals, gentle acoustic guitar and light, airy keyboard. Find out more at www.facebook.com/sundaymorningtheband and www.bronsonrecordings.com

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