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


Cruel Nature is an eclectic tape label that tends to deal in noisy and/or experimental genres, including drone, improv, hardcore and punk, but also ventures into styles more in line with my own tastes, including folk, indiepop and psych. The tapes are available in limited numbers, with downloads also available.

SALISMAN & HIS HERMETIC ORDER is an Anglo-American file-sharing collaboration involving Chicago musicians Paul Foreman and Travis Salisbury, and Tyneside's Chris Tate whose other bands include d_rradio, Score, and One Key Magic. Their Clairvoyance album is available on pro-duplicated cassette with on-body printing, made of satin-finish plastic in a very lovely shade of translucent turquoise, a work of art in itself. Roy Haynes' Famous Flat Ride is an innovative mix of laid-back vocals, woozy pedal steel, backwards effects and busy electronic beats that sound almost hip-hop-like, resulting in psychedelic alt-country as I've never heard it before. Crystal Window Hangings includes a full-on psych-rock guitar jam set to retrofuturistic bedroom electronics and a frenetic disco beat. Fealty to the Earl is a swirling, atmospheric blend of dreampop and Americana. Ether is a kind of alternative pop backed by a mix of gloriously pealing psychedelic country and searing alt-rock noise. An inventive band who bring together bits of existing styles to produce something very much their own.

EASTER are a Manchester band who gain much of their inspiration from the USA, cooking up a noisy yet melodic concoction of alt-rock, heavy psych-rock and beyond. Their tape Live at SSR features nine tracks recorded live at the School of Sound Recording in Manchester, released on a red cassette with on-body printing. The aptly titled Somethin' American begins with tense droning noise, giving way to a song that has shades of American roots rock in the vein of Neil Young, but much more noisy and alternative, the melody wrapped in sheets of squalling noise, making for the kind of sound that has invited past comparisons to bands like Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth and Sebadoh. Open Grave also draws from American alt-rock but combines this with British shoegaze/dreampop. I'm hearing the bendy, woozy noise of My Bloody Valentine, and the kind of atmospheric noisepop associated with 4AD in the 80s and early 90s, as well as rockier moments that are intense and psychedelic. Suicidal Kiss has an American college rock thing going on, with tinges of early REM. Never Open Up combines angsty US alt-rock with an atmospheric jangly sound something like a meeting of 60s psychedelic folk-rock and the dreamier side of late 80s indiepop. The track takes in some very intense psych-rock guitar soloing also. Again this is a band who draw from familiar influences but mix them together in a creative way.

Grey Blyth of Easter also has a solo project, HOLY ISLAND, whose Midnight Empire tape is available on pale blue cassette with minimal yellow print. This one is totally up my street, distilling several strands of my own musical interests into one cohesive whole. Dream Debris combines chiming psychedelic sounds with harsher, angular moments, along with a truly beautiful chorus melody. Kant Remember the Right Way to Hell is a big swirling monster of neo-psych, with hypnotic riffs, brutal noise and ringing jangle. Aint Apt shows signs of inspiration from the classic indiepop of the late 80s, but incorporates a complex, bendy structure that's very unusual for this genre, along with fluid, psychedelic guitar work. Fear Satans Tango is a shimmering shoegaze track that could easily have been on Creation Records in the early 1990s. The bizarrely named instrumental /6/_/2.29/ takes the melancholic jangle that Sarah Records is best known for and swathes it in woozy, dreamlike effects, resulting in a fine slice of experimental psychedelia. The title track has tense gothic drama overlaid with shoegaze noise atmospherics. An excellent album that takes its cues from the glory days of indiepop as well as psychedelia, shoegaze and post-punk, and infuses all this with a healthy dose of innovation. Very much recommended.

While all the above bands were new to me, the next tape I have here is from a much more familiar name, the KITCHEN CYNICS, the long-running project of Alan Davidson, who I first heard of via the 1990s DIY tapes scene. One of the most prolific underground artists, Alan has a back catalogue of over a hundred releases across a variety of DIY labels. Cruel Nature has released the latest Kitchen Cynics tape, Strange Acrobats, as a brown cassette with paper labels, packaged within the collage art Alan is also known for. The title track has a tune almost like a 19th century hymn, accompanied by airy flute interwoven with fuzzy psychedelic guitar. Hidden in the Spaces is a beautifully atmospheric instrumental, whose medieval ballad-like melody chimes and reverberates in best psychedelic style, with flute floating above. Ending side one is a buzzing, fluttering instrumental combining the melodic and the experimental, perfectly evoking the beauty and fierceness of the titular Hornet Queen. The darker side of the Kitchen Cynics comes through in songs like Do Not Call the Doctor, a grim tale of a Victorian doctor/poisoner, swathed in ghostly flute and heady psych guitar, and The One-Eyed Princess, an eerie, gruesome fairytale (which ends more happily than I'd expected) within a darkly beautiful musical setting. A very highly recommended album from one of the best contemporary psych-folk projects.

The Kitchen Cynics and Holy Island albums are now sold out in physical format though downloads are still available. The Easter and Salisman tapes are limited to 50 copies and are still available at the time of writing. Visit cruelnaturerecordings.bandcamp.com

UPDATE: New on Cruel Nature is the latest KITCHEN CYNICS tape, Fractured Memories. The artwork features more of Alan's trademark collage art (this time showing a half-man-half-ostrich mountaineer figure) set within a similar layout to that of Strange Acrobats, a nice touch that presents both albums as a matching pair. New Boots sets storytelling lyrics to a trad folk-influenced melody surrounded by a cloud of whooshing cosmic synth. Wise Birds is beautiful psych-folk with a chiming, echoing arrangement that really fills up the head. Cleaning in Progress comes from the most experimental side of the Kitchen Cynics, with an improvisational melody weaving in and out of what sounds like a duet between a whirring cinema projector and an electric floor polisher. Thump Ian spins a touching tale amidst an engaging experimental soundscape. Maj. General C R Blair is deep, heady psych-folk, sounding like an authentic traditional ballad hazed in a celestial shimmer. Streams is melancholic folk-pop ornamented with flute whose tone ranges from the bucolic to the spectral. The album closes with Fractured Memory, in which the song meanders over soft hums, harsh buzzes, and strange dreamlike improvisations. Alan Cynic is one of the most original artists in the world of psych-folk, whose inventive, experimental compositions and narrative lyrics send the listener on a true mind-journey. Limited to 75 copies, with only a handful left at the time of writing, available from the Bandcamp address above.


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