FRUITS DE MER RECORDS
Fruits de Mer Records have a batch of four new 7" singles and EPs available as of 7th September 2015. First up, Magic Bus, whose Seven Wonders seamlessly combines the more accessible and unpretentious kind of prog with psychedelic whimsy and a pop sensibility. The song incorporates a section with atmospheric wordless vocal harmonies giving way to flute, harpsichord and vintage organ, which complements the song perfectly. Magic Bus have a very similar approach here to Caravan's early 1970s output. Over on the B-side, Magic Bus cover The Byrds' Eight Miles High, slowing the song right down and stripping back the accompaniment to stark drones and minimalistic organ chords, before upping the tempo and introducing some jangly guitar to produce a recognisable version of the song. Recognisable yes, but far from being a straight copy; Magic Bus put a sunshine pop spin on the track in an instrumental section based around soaring, pirouetting flute and a jazz-tinged bassline, whilst also bringing in a prog instrumental section later on. An absolutely fantastic single from a band I'm very keen to hear more from.
Tir na nÓg released three albums on Chrysalis Records in the early 1970s, returned briefly for gigs in 1985, and reformed on a longer term basis as of 2010. A new album, The Dark Dance, was recently released (I'm yet to hear this but hope to check it out at some point), and now Fruits de Mer are releasing a new single from them comprising Ricochet, a track from their new album, and a live version of the eponymous song Tir na nÓg which originally appeared on their 1971 debut album. The cover art of a whirling wheel made of trees hints at the sort of primal music on offer here. Ricochet is dark-edged psych-folk with Eastern tinges, treading a very similar path to Stone Breath. Tir na nÓg combines traditional-inspired folk reminiscent of early Steeleye Span with an arrangement that envelops the listener in washes of atmospheric psychedelic effects. Superb stuff, very highly recommended.
49 Cigars was released in 1982 as the B-side to Nick Nicely's Hilly Fields single, described by the NME as "the best psych single since the 60s". Fruits de Mer reissued Hilly Fields a few years ago and are now releasing a 4 song EP by Nick Nicely which includes the original 1982 recording of 49 Cigars along with a longer live version, a remixed version of Belinda from Nick's latest album, and another new song entitled Lobster Dobbs. 49 Cigars combines 60s psych-pop whimsy with a hypnotic chugging rhythm and experimental aspects. Belinda is an atmospheric psychedelic track with a distortion effect on the vocals that sounds as though it's being sung underwater. Washes of ethereal noise to rival that of shoegaze bands are combined with a choppy-changey, surrealistic song structure. The live version of 49 Cigars is heavier than the single version, complete with squalling noisy guitar, and goes all-out experimental towards the end with all sorts of quirky sound effects and even some quasi-operatic vocals. Lobster Dobbs is another fine slice of psychedelic experimentalism, this time bringing in a lazy dance beat and tinges of jazz and soul alongside ethereal floaty noise, samples, and a general offbeat atmosphere.
Vibravoid return to Fruits de Mer with a 3 track 7" of cover versions. The Monkees' (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone appears as psych-rock with garage and mod inclinations. Traffic's Hole in My Shoe features guest vocalist Viola Road, and combines whimsical and fantastical psych-pop with lashings of sitar, tablas, and swirling Mellotron. Vibravoid's version of The White Ship, originally by HP Lovecraft (the band not the author!) was previously released on a 7" that came with Timemazine magazine. The song gets a reissue here in remixed form, a hazy, atmospheric psych-rock piece incorporating drawn-out vocals, spacey vintage synth and sitar. Each song shows a different musical approach, though a sense of cohesiveness is provided by the psychedelic atmosphere that pervades the whole EP.
All 7"s are limited pressings on coloured vinyl, and can be ordered via www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
UPDATE - Since writing this article I have received two new releases on Fruits de Mer's Friends of the Fish sublabel. First up, Jack Ellister's LP Tune Up Your Ministers and Start Transmission from Pool Holes to Class O Hypergiants. I first heard of Jack Ellister as a member of Yordan Orchestra, whose Psych Introduxeon - Bringing Ingredients Together CD came out back in 2010. Since then, he has released a number of solo recordings on Fruits de Mer, including The Man with the Biochopper and Dawn Dream Club 7"s and various compilation appearances. Now he releases his first solo album on 20th November 2015, the bizarre album title giving clues as to the nature of the music. The Man with the Biochopper straddles all corners of psychedelia, being in turn hypnotic, whimsical, experimental, anthemic and fierce. The Sun Sends Me Hails, Victory, Power, Peace and Shelter combines gentle psych-folk with psych-pop whimsy and expansive experimental soundscaping. Saddle Up the Horse is punchy psych-rock with a healthy dose of quirk factor, throwing in elements of spacey electronica and improvisational jazz. Calm Adapter is a lullaby-like psych-folk song set to relaxing washes of undulating sound. Great Esmeralda is a highly inventive mix of forceful rock and experimental psychedelic soundscaping, combined in a way that you're unlikely to hear anywhere else. Old South bypasses the experimentalism that characterises the rest of the album in favour of a more conventionally structured folky approach, though for 'conventional', do not read 'boring'; Jack Ellister is far too talented to make dull music! Whilst the album isn't out for nearly a month, it is very limited (just 111 copies on 180 gram turquoise vinyl) and like everything else on this label is guaranteed to sell out fast, so get your orders in quickly!
Also forthcoming on Friends of the Fish in December is a split lathe cut 7" featuring US band Ex Norwegian, and Permanent Clear Light from Finland, which is limited to just 50 copies! Ex Norwegian are new to Fruits de Mer and new to me also, though they have already released five albums with another on the way. Their track It's A Game (originally recorded by String Driven Thing and later covered by the Bay City Rollers) is a fine slice of powerpop that puts me in mind of a cross between Velvet Crush and The Pursuit of Happiness, and has made me curious to hear Ex Norwegian's self-penned material. Permanent Clear Light follow previous releases on Fruits de Mer and Havasupai Records with a new track entitled Corneville Skyline, a superb psych-pop song with alto recorder adding to the mellow and dreamlike atmosphere. Permanent Clear Light are currently working on a new album for release in Spring 2016, which will hopefully include Corneville Skyline, as this song is way too good to be heard by only 50 people.
Also coming soon from Fruits de Mer are albums by The Chemistry Set and Michael Padilla; stay tuned for more on these shortly.
UPDATE II - The Chemistry Set were formed in 1987 and are counted among the pioneers of the neo-psychedelic scene. Very much a part of the fanzines, flexis and homemade tapes underground, they also achieved indie chart placings with their records on the Imaginary label, and one of their singles even reached the mainstream top 20 in Spain. They counted the likes of John Peel and Factory Records' Tony Wilson among their fans, and have received as much support from mainstream press and radio as from DIY fanzines. The band went on hiatus in the early 90s, returning in 2008, a prolific quantity of releases appearing since on Fruits de Mer and other labels. Their latest album The Endless More and More is due for release in January 2016 on Fruits de Mer's Regal Crabomophone offshoot. The album brings together a handful of tracks that have previously appeared on limited edition FdM 7"s with many brand new songs, and is limited to 600 copies on gold vinyl.
The Splendour of the Universe bridges the gap between 60s psychedelia and modern indie rock, the uplifting melody augmented by bursts of triumphant brass. The Fountains of Neptune is an intense number pairing retro organ with swirling, hypnotic noise guitar. International Rescue opts for an authentically 60s approach, the retro riffage and "ooooh... bop bop" backing vocals sounding like a genuine product of that era. Come Kiss Me Vibrate and Smile balances a gutsy rock sound with swirly ethereal effects, and may appeal just as much to fans of shoegaze as it would to psych fans. Winter Sun is a mellow, folk-tinged psych-pop track with a melancholic yet hopeful air. Albert Hoffman, an ode to the inventor of LSD, brings together angular surrealism with playful whimsy. A Cure for the Inflicted Afflicted is a hard-rocking track with lyrics pointing out the absurdities of modern life: banal social media postings, plastic surgery, sweat shops, violence - the squalling heavy guitars helping to hit home the song's serious message. The Open Window is swirling Indian-influenced psych with a positive and empowering lyrical message. In short, a fantastic album of modern psychedelia that comes very highly recommended by me!
Also out in January, this time on the Strangefish arm of Fruits de Mer, which focuses on more experimental and ambient sounds, is Michael Padilla's Atmospheres (Ambient Works Volume One), released as a picture disc and accompanying CD. Michael Padilla has previously been known for his work with psych-rock and dreampop bands (The Soft Bombs, Dora Flood, Michael and the Machines), so this album is something of a departure from his usual work. The album comprises four soundscapes made solely with a sampler and loop pedal. Northern Lights has the swirling, shimmering, slightly icy sound that you would expect from the title. Subtly melodic, it recalls incidental film music in some respects, and creates a relaxing atmosphere. Crossing East is more tuneful, warm and uplifting, and has rather a modern classical feel. Ecstagony sounds classical-inspired, and is dark and brooding yet tinged with hope. The Waiting has a big, dramatic sound based around booming bowed double bass, brass and woodwind. Due to the limitations in sound quality that come with picture discs, Fruits de Mer are releasing this album with a bonus CD which includes all tracks from the picture disc plus an extra track (which I can't comment on as it wasn't included with the promo package I received). The set is limited to 500 copies.
UPDATE III: April 6th 2016 brings us three new 7"s from Fruits de Mer. All are pressed on coloured vinyl and limited to 600 copies or less. Claudio Cataldi contributed a Syd Barrett cover to Fruits de Mer's Pink Floyd tribute A Momentary Lapse of Vinyl a while ago, and now he has a 4-song EP on the label which features his version of The Velvet Underground's Here She Comes Now, along with three self-penned tracks. Claudio pulls together his musical interests of psychedelia, indiepop and shoegaze in the title track, featuring strummy acoustic guitar overlaid with atmospheric washes of sound. All My Friends are Here is a brand new track exclusive to this release, a minimalistic singer-songwriter piece augmented by ethereal dreampop effects. The other two tracks here are taken from previous releases: Final comes from the Homing Season album on Som Non-Label, a swirling, hazy shoegaze piece with additional influences from vintage psych-rock, and Ropes and Strings is from the self-released album Soundtracks, an instrumental track combining raw minimalistic folk-rock with atmospheric electronics. Whilst both of the previously released tracks are known to me, I imagine they are probably new to most people following Fruits de Mer, seeing as Soundtracks was an extremely limited handmade release, and because until now I believe most people aware of Claudio Cataldi came from the shoegaze/dreampop or hometaper scenes rather than those into the more overtly psychedelic music Fruits de Mer specialises in. It is a very good thing that FdM are exposing this artist to a new audience. Whilst Claudio's music, with its strong influences from shoegaze, indiepop, and DIY hometaper music, falls somewhat outside of FdM's tagline "it's as if the last 40 years never happened", it certainly has much about it that is sure to appeal to psych fans.
Next up is Sendelica's cover of Ziggy Stardust. Fear not - this is no cynical tasteless exercise in cashing in on David Bowie's death: the tracks were recorded way back in 2015, and as FdM's press release informs us, "the single would have been released well before the Thin White Duke passed away if we had any sense of urgency around here". The label released a Bowie covers album on CD last year; I missed out on this as it was a FdM members' club-only release, but it featured amongst other tracks Sendelica's reinterpretation of Ziggy Stardust. The track gets another outing here as FdM felt it needed to be heard on vinyl. This single will be released more widely, giving the opportunity for non-club members to hear it. Eclecticism has always been a thing with Sendelica, and now they introduce even more new facets to their sound. Sprawling, shimmering post-rock instrumentation, soulful female vocals, and bursts of laid-back, meandering sax that bridges the gap between psychedelia and jazz come together to create something very, very different from the Bowie original, and which may also surprise Sendelica fans who are expecting something more spacerockish. The B-side is an atmospheric remix of Ziggy Stardust by Astralasia's Marc Swordfish, blending ambient and experimental electronic aspects with intense prog guitar work, as well as keyboard riffs that reference David Bowie's original version of the song.
Thirdly, we have Texan prog band Proud Peasant, who are new to me and new to FdM, with the 2-track 7" Cosmic Sound, which comprises two cover versions of songs from 1973. Daybreak, originally by Eloy, sets a bombastic, dramatic, medieval-esque melody to a fast-moving, hard-rocking arrangement. Over on the B-side they cover Manfred Mann's Earth Band's Saturn, Lord of the Ring/Mercury, The Winged Messenger in an authentically 1970s prog fashion. Intricate and multifaceted, the piece takes in hard-hitting retro prog rock alongside a laid-back yet slightly eerie, atmospheric filmic section.
Find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com
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