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FREE CITY

Free City is an excellent online magazine dedicated to psychedelic music. Running alongside the zine is a label of the same name, releasing the music of Nick Bensen (who co-runs Free City) and other bands/artists.

Free City has released a compilation CD, The International League of Telepathic Explorers, which is a benefit for the online magazine, and features a number of bands who are already well established in the psychedelic scene. Nick and Heidi say they intended this to be an album that "listeners would want to hear in its entirety, rather than just concentrating on a few rarities by bands they already follow" and they have certainly achieved this. It comes across as a complete album, rather than a random collection of unrelated songs, and is highly recommended for both existing fans of psychedelic pop and rock, and those curious about what the genre has to offer. The music varies between psych-tinged pop to more swirly/atmospheric music to rockier songs, but all held together by the psychedelic theme. Included on here are Aquarium Poppers, Nick Bensen, The Bevis Frond, Bitter Little Cider Apples, Thebrotheregg, Dipsomaniacs, Dunlavy, Lucky Bishops, Mandra Gora Lightshow Society, The Minders, Motorpsycho, Photon Band, Polar Arc, The Sand Pebbles, Adrian Shaw and 33 Tiger Infinity.

I have two CDs and a CDR by Nick Bensen, the first of these being Psychedelic Juggernaut. This starts off with Ghost Waves, an instrumental consisting of equal parts of atmospheric soundscape and fuzzy/noisy rock, a combination that works well. The History of Rock & Roll is totally different, a psychedelic pop song. London District Atlas is a brilliant instrumental containing both spacey and Indian sounding bits. Let Op! is basically a psych-pop song, but with a guitar style that is much more psych-rock. Driving Obsession is instrumental spacerock. Portland is the Place is fuzzy, spacey psych-rock. Lunar Standstill is a comparatively short instrumental that is both atmospheric and rhythmic. Monolith is instrumental psych-rock with a bluesy feel. The Answer Withheld is a song which mixes well-defined melodies with a more freeform, swirly, atmospheric soundscape. El Nopal is an excellent psych instrumental. You'll notice that with the exception of the short instrumental Lunar Standstill, which has another instrumental after it, the track order is arranged as instrumental, song, instrumental, song, and so forth. A nice touch, I thought; shows the album has been thoughtfully put together.

The next CD is No Resistance, which contains a diverse mixture of material ranging from film soundtrack-like atmospheric soundscape to psych-rock to a 9 minute jam session. Tracks here include the title track, a sitar-laden psych-pop song; Great Burst of Clarity, noisy psych-rock; Unrealized Voyage to Hammerfest, an effective mix of the melodic and the atmospheric; Where's Mr Dave?, an excellent psych-pop song; Fall, more of the same but with rockier guitar playing; Distant Memory #2, which is kind of a more psychedelic version of post-rock; Pine City, a laid-back psych-rock song that's one of my favourites here; Don't Freak Out, more excellent psych-rock, this time reminding me a bit of The Bevis Frond; and And the Time is Right, brilliant psych-pop.

Then there's The New Scene of Nick Bensen, a 7 track CDR containing alternate mixes, demos, outtakes and compilation tracks. The music here includes swirly psych-pop; those sort of instrumentals that Nick Bensen is good at which effectively combine melodic elements with more soundscapey qualities; psych-pop with psych-rock guitar; blues; and an acoustic song that contains elements of both acoustic rock and the sort of melancholic music made by people like Frank Peck.

Norwegian band the Dipsomaniacs are usually known for psych-pop but are doing something rather different on their Free City album The Tremolo of Her Mind - The Strings of Her Soul. Miles Away is an amazing instrumental piece that features brass instruments alongside the usual psych-rock instrumentation. It starts off ultra-melodic and bits of it have shades of folk and classical music, but then it turns into a more freeform jam. Despite this though, it doesn't come across as incoherent or self-indulgent. Before Painting Your Murals is the closest to the band's usual sound, being a psych-pop-folk song. Sounds a bit Byrds-like in places, and is a bit quirky elsewhere. The 15 minute-plus instrumental Dipso Raga #1 is subtitled For George; one assumes that's George Harrison. As the title suggests, it is an Indian influenced piece, but instead of using sitar, it is played on guitar and what seems to be a keyboard drone in the background. This also includes trombone, totally unexpected in a track of this type. Hear Me, Take Me is an acoustic song with minimal vocals that are used more like an instrument than to convey any detailed lyrical meaning. In Syd's Garden is another long track, this time in excess of 20 minutes. This is a spacey soundscape mixed with noisy chaotic guitar playing and twiddly psychedelic guitar playing. Unlike Miles Away, the extended jams on here can get a little too self-indulgent and abstract, but the band can be forgiven for this as the other tracks are quite simply superb.

Contact heidi@freecitymedia.com

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Text Kim Harten, 2003.