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


Folk Archive is the DIY CDR label run by David CW Briggs to release his own very prolific output as well as occasional albums by other artists. I have here five recent DCWB albums plus the latest one from Gavin John Baker, All Good Things.

David CW Briggs' music draws from an eclectic mix of DIY pop, psychedelia, blues, folk and experimentation, yet holds together as a cohesive whole. The Whispers (Folk Archive 52) includes such tracks as The Hand Me Down Stoop, a heady, heavy collision of retro organ, clanging noise guitar and snaking psychedelia; People Are Unbearable, a wry, witty takedown of people's selfishness, phoniness and addiction to mobile phones and television, within an off-centre lo-fi pop setting; Yellow Like Sunshine, underground pop with a dreamlike atmospheric beauty; and Empty Vessel, angular art-pop with spoken vocals.

Next is The Mirage on the End of the Pier (Folk Archive 53). Caravan Holiday is off-kilter psych-pop wrapped in an atmospheric shoegaze haze. The quirky title of Boiled Beef and Garbage leads one to expect something from DCWB's more off-the-wall side, but in fact this is DIY pop with a sparse, melancholic beauty, similar in some ways to indiepop hometapers I'd hear back in my days in the 1990s tapes scene. This is followed by I'm in Love with Rita Tushingham, a fun noisepop ode to the 1960s actress known for her roles in films like A Taste of Honey and Smashing Time. I Am Went is raucous garage rock 'n' roll, combining slicing, squalling guitar noise, a thudding rhythm, and the hypnotic buzz of a retro organ. Please Be Quiet is a super-minimal and super-lo-fi song about noisy neighbours, DCWB's voice accompanied only by a rhythmically repeated single note from a concertina.

Mercury (Folk Archive 55) brings in more of a folk influence than the two preceding albums, though there's still the usual eclecticism expected of DCWB here. His Horrible Face Less Horrible than the Rest of the World combines post-punk gloom with psych-folk tinges. In Long Distance Echo, bleak, haunting contemporary folk and atmospheric psychedelia come together to form a deeply moving mixture. A Little Thyme is psychedelic folk-rock underpinned by an insistent thudding bass line. Quirky homemade blues meets bright sunny pop in Messenger Blues. The six-minute-plus title track ends the album, swathing melancholic indiepop in an ethereal haze, with a gentle electronic pulse and intense psychedelic guitars adding to the atmospheric nature of the piece.

Viva Happiness (Folk Archive 58) tends towards a general psychedelic emphasis, with an eclectic spirit that highlights the sheer breadth of the psychedelic genre. Disappointment is psych-tinged powerpop shot through with searing guitar noise, sounding something like a cross between Syd Barrett, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and early 90s Teenage Fanclub. Paper Doll is lo-fi psych-pop with a slightly eerie undercurrent. The Blue Sky Weighs Heavily Upon Your Eyelids combines experimental psychedelic meanderings with chantlike vocals expressing deep philosophical sentiments on humanity's separation from nature. My favourite track on the album, Reflects Closer, is saved for last - the kind of sunny, psych-infused janglepop that always brings a smile to my face.

Telephones (Folk Archive 59) features one of DCWB's surreal collages on the cover, in which a man trepans a boy's skull with a manual drill, the boy pointing at something in the distance, seemingly oblivious to the sharp implement piercing his scalp. An extra layer of surrealism comes from the picture being arranged as a mirror image, giving the man the appearance of having two heads and four arms. Opening with the strange, creepy experimental track What Sort of People See Ghosts? and closing with the laid-back psych-folk beauty of Sunlit Vase, the album also takes in such tracks as I Am the Earl of Grey, an effective combination of blues, psych and eccentric pop; Tiny Feathered Typewriters, a mindbending psych epic combining hypnotically repeating riffs, intense psychedelic heaviness and languid recitations; and the aural surrealism of the title track.

All Good Things (Folk Archive 54) is the latest solo album from UK-born, Norway-based musician Gavin John Baker (Billy Mahonie, Jet Johnson, Höglin Baker etc). He is joined here by Stefan Höglin (Höglin Baker) and Caroline Nesbø Baker (Jet Johnson, Peachfuzz). Gavin has explored a number of genres over the years, and this time he looks towards American folk-rock for inspiration. Just Like Bonnie and Clyde sounds like an authentic American folk song, beefed up with raw, dirty rock guitars. Autumn Day is very lovely jangly folk-rock with shades of The Byrds. Into the Wild is contemporary folk with an inventive, multi-genre-spanning arrangement taking in influences from Gavin's past in post-rock and indie-rock outfits, alongside atmospheric slide guitar and intense rock guitar soloing. Dead Man's Shirt is raw, dark and real country-rock, with a melodic style that recalls Sixteen Horsepower at times. Frantic riffage adds to the on-edge atmosphere, and despite its harsh, macabre nature, it's an exhilarating listen.

Each of the CDRs is limited to just 10 copies, except for Viva Happiness and All Good Things which are limited to 25 copies. Downloads are also available. Visit davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com and gavinjohnbaker.bandcamp.com

Also out now on Folk Archive is Crow Spanner (Folk Archive 60) by Zeuk, the project of multi-instrumentalist Marc Roberts. This is a very eclectic album, diverse enough to sound more like a compilation than the work of a single artist. The two main sides to Zeuk's music are dark experimentation that puts me in mind of some of the output of 1990s tape labels, and a creative, impressive brand of psych-folk. If I Were A Clock is angular, psychedelic noise-rock with recited vocals over a mix of sharp guitar clanging, atmospheric sound manipulation and drum machine rhythms. I'm Mad As Hell is a nightmarish soundscape, its backbone formed by busy mechanistic drumming, and topped off with falsetto vocals. Doppelganger is bizarre gothic experimentation incorporating snippets of guitar melody exuding spy movie drama, and whirring sound effects that also create a cinematic atmosphere.

Tides is the album's five minute-plus centrepiece; a multi-part acoustic track in which sublime psych-folk segues into a section with deep, expressive vocals, sounding something like David Bowie gone gothic, then ending with a repeating psychedelic refrain accompanied by ethereal backing vocals. A Northern Shining is psych-folk that combines eccentricity and beauty, reminding me at various points of Syd Barrett, The Incredible String Band, and Nick Drake. The song's counterpart, I Am A Cloud (Yes) revisits the song's main theme and sets it within an intense blend of relentless drum machine and searing psychedelic guitar work. This same "I am a cloud" theme returns again in Twilight of Ice, in which a child narrator provides spoken lyrics over an immersive, glacial soundscape. Looking for Huxley is a strongly melodic song that stays in the head, its arrangement bringing together pastoral folk and deeply atmospheric psychedelia.

A highly inventive album that takes existing genres - folk, psych, electronica, goth, film music and more - and combines them in a way that shows considerable originality. Limited to 40 copies on CDR, with free badge and vintage tea card, or on download, from davidcwbriggs.bandcamp.com.


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Text © Kim Harten, 2021.