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SINGLE REVIEWS

JULY Can I Go Back Again 7" (Fruits de Mer)
CRYSTAL JACQUELINE Morning Dew 7" (Fruits de Mer/Regal Crabomophone)

May 9th brings us two new 7" singles from Fruits de Mer, both pressed on coloured vinyl and strictly limited edition. 60s psych band July are best known for their self-titled album from 1968, which is highly sought after among collectors. The band returned in 2011 with a series of gigs, before releasing their new album Resurrection. Now Fruits de Mer bring us a new two-track 7" featuring an extended version and a demo version of one of the songs from Resurrection, Can I Go Back Again. Dreamlike 60s-ish psych-pop with sitar and tablas is beefed up with intense bursts of psych-rock guitar and forceful vocals, the lyrics expressing nostalgia for the decade that birthed the band, weaving Beatles song titles into a coherent lyrical narrative.
Meanwhile, Crystal Jacqueline appears with three covers of vintage tracks and a new song written by her bandmate Icarus Peel. Bonnie Dobson and Tim Rose's Morning Dew is reinterpreted here as a mix of folk, 60s pop, sitar psych, and maybe a touch of Kate Bush. Icarus Peel's Ivy is hazy, dreamlike and slightly eerie balladry. Moonsong:Pelog, originally by Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies, is very lovely sunshine pop-tinged psych, ornamented with tinkling glockenspiel, floaty flute, and more of that dreamlike atmospheric vibe that has characterised much of Crystal Jacqueline's work of late. The Jaynetts' Sally Go Round the Roses envelops early 60s R&B in a late 60s psychedelic haze. Order the singles at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

CATHOLIC DANCE ACADEMY Triangulated CDR (self-released)
Debut EP from Coventry-based duo Catholic Dance Academy, comprising Jon E. Hardy and Melina Cook. Jon has a long history in the indiepop scene, with bands such as The Pristines, Balloon Farm, and Dolores Haze, but Catholic Dance Academy is something of a departure from his earlier music. Powerless is spiky indie rock shot through with a sense of deep melancholy. Chaos Inside Your Head is an effective mix of harsh yet melodic indie rock and experimental electronica. Bacon Situations is an inventive art-rock piece that offsets hard-edged synthpop and forceful recited vocals with a delicate, intricate melody played on an instrument with a harp-like tone, though I don't think it's actually a harp. The EP has a good mix of melody, noise/anger/bleakness, and experimental sensibilities, and I'd be interested to hear what else they may come up with in future. Available at catholicdanceacademy.bandcamp.com

ANDY B Pandora's Box and Let's Talk About it Later Baby CDRs (Pastime)
NATIONAL PASTIME Perfect in Every Way CDR (Pastime)
ANT SMITH Summer Day CDR (Pastime)

Four limited edition 2-track singles released simultaneously on Pastime Records. Andy B and National Pastime's singles are taken from, and act as tasters for, their albums, whilst Ant Smith returns to Pastime Records with his first release in several years, the songs being exclusive to this single. The first of the two Andy B singles, Pandora's Box, features two bittersweet retro indiepop songs from the side of his sound that's all about jangly guitars, airy dreamlike keyboards, and a melancholic yet hopeful mood. Let's Talk About it Later Baby is a punchier track, nodding towards rock whilst still being rooted within the indiepop scene. Accompanying track Worth the Wait is full of that classic jangly sound that fans of old school indiepop will love. National Pastime also features Andy B alongside Andrew Padfield, Scott Morrison (ex-Morrisons), and Chris Head. Their Perfect in Every Way juxtaposes a rollicking 1980s indiepop sound with sentiments of unrequited love. This song is paired with Summer Haze, another slice of broken-hearted vintage-style indiepop. Ant Smith provides two stripped-down, lo-fi acoustic tracks that bridge the gap between indiepop, hometaper singer-songwriters, and contemporary folk. The singles are available on CD from pastimerecords.webs.com or download from pastimerecords.bandcamp.com

HOLOGRAM TEEN Marsangst pink vinyl 7" (Happy Robots)
Hologram Teen is the solo project of former Stereolab keyboardist Morgane Lhote. The two tracks here are just as much fun as the strawberry bubblegum pink vinyl and space-age comic cover art suggest. Motorik rhythms, bedroom electronica, experimental music, and vintage horror movie soundtracks all come together in Marsangst, while Hex These Rules is a brilliant DIY subversion of glitzy 1980s synthpop, adding piano riffage and cut-up samples sounding much like the best bits of 1980s house. Whilst essentially a techno/house single, it's far more REAL than anything of this ilk that you'll find in the charts. Fantastic stuff, a real blast of fresh air! Limited to 300 copies and already selling fast on pre-order, the 7" is released 1st July 2016 and is available at www.happyrobots.co.uk

VIBRAVOID In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida 7" (Fruits de Mer)
SIDEWALK SOCIETY Can't Help Thinking About Me 7" (Fruits de Mer)
ASTRALASIA/ICARUS PEEL/BLUE GIANT ZETA PUPPIES The Fruits de Mer Guide to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 7" (Fruits de Mer)

August 9th 2016 sees the release of three new 7"s from Fruits de Mer Records, all limited edition and on coloured vinyl. First up, Vibravoid cover Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, a 10 minute plus track divided into two parts and spread over two sides of a 7" single! The original version dates from a time when psychedelia was beginning to take on a harder edge, a process that would ultimately spark off the beginnings of heavy metal. This is reflected in Vibravoid's cover, which features heavy-hitting guitar riffage and powerful vocals alongside meandering psychedelic organ improvisation and spacey sound effects. They also incorporate a lengthy drum solo part way between tribal/shamanistic rhythms and jazz, and a touch of church-style organ, perhaps intended as a nod towards the song's title deriving from 'In the Garden of Eden'. A heady, impressive offering from a band who are understandably included among Fruits de Mer's most popular outfits.
Next we have Sidewalk Society's 4 track EP consisting of cover versions of The Action and David Bowie songs. Lest anyone suspect the Bowie covers are a cynical effort to cash in on his death, the band did in fact record these songs when Bowie was still alive, having no knowledge that he was so ill. Sidewalk Society have opted to explore the lesser-known side of Bowie's output here, choosing two tracks from the 1960s that will probably be new to anyone with only a casual interest in his music. These songs were certainly new to me, though I was able to guess which of the four songs here were originally by David Bowie as they have his distinctive songwriting style all over them. Can't Help Thinking About Me is presented here as punchy retro pop ornamented by rock 'n' roll piano riffage and crashing drums and cymbals, whilst Let Me Sleep Beside You opts for an orchestrated psych-pop approach. The Action songs are heavier but still fit in well alongside the Bowie tracks. Look at the View combines hard-edged mod and swirly, dreamlike psych-pop into a coherent whole, and Strange Roads is intense yet melodic psych-rock that encapsulates that moment during the late 1960s when psychedelia was starting to take on a heavier sound. Sidewalk Society are a band who are clearly steeped in 1960s music, and their love of this era imparts a sense of vintage authenticity onto their versions of these tracks.
The third single from the August batch of FdM releases features Astralasia, Icarus Peel, and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies' interpretations of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy theme tune, which started life as an Eagles track called Journey of the Sorcerer. Astralasia's version is an intense spacerock track with plenty of wild psychedelic guitar work and whooshing sci-fi synths. Icarus Peel's version starts with a floaty, ambient feel before morphing into a nicely chilled-out psych-rock piece. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies combine psychedelic improvisation with a punky chug and spacerock atmospherics. Each puts their own stamp on the track, making all three versions quite different from each other whilst still being held together by a common thread. Those that buy the 7" will also get a bonus CD with remixes, another version of Journey of the Sorcerer by Quantum Surf Rocket Garage Dolls, and new music by Astralasia and Sendelica's Pete Bingham taking Journey of the Sorcerer as its inspiration.
Available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

THE LUCK OF EDEN HALL The End of the Lane 7" (Mega Dodo)
Out on 15th August 2016 is the new single from Chicago's The Luck of Eden Hall. There's a blue vinyl version for Mega Dodo singles club members only, and a black vinyl version on general release, both limited to 150 copies. Whilst I only became aware of The Luck of Eden Hall via their releases on Fruits de Mer Records, they actually have a much longer history, and an appeal that spans both underground and mainstream audiences. They formed in the 1990s, and have over 25 releases available including nine albums. They count Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins among their fans, and were nominated for an Emmy for their theme song for Moochie Kalala Detective's Club on PBS Television. It's not often you'll find Emmy nominees and TV theme tune makers who are just as happy releasing limited edition records on underground labels! This new single is inspired by Neil Gaiman's novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and includes artwork by Neil Gaiman himself. The lines between underground and mainstream continue to blur in that the artwork was produced by a megastar author, yet retains a handmade DIY feel with its unassuming sketch of a bucket accompanied by nicely twiddly fountain pen calligraphy. The End of the Lane begins and ends as a vintage-inspired psych-pop track with jangly guitar and atmospheric Mellotron orchestration, whilst in the middle of the song they crank up the volume with lashings of intense, searing guitar noise. Blown to Kingdom Come is taken from their recent album The Acceleration of Time, out on Headspin Records. The song combines a meaty, uptempo powerpop sound with spacerockish electronic burblings, flowing psychedelic guitar, and a melancholic, almost folk-tinged chorus melody, in a manner that is innovative and enjoyable. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk

biG GRunt In Session 12" (Mega Dodo)
biG GRunt was the band formed in 1970 by Vivian Stanshall after the split of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. The line-up also included the Bonzos' Dennis Cowan and Roger Ruskin Spear, as well as Bubs White who had been a member of the Bonzos' road crew. Mega Dodo are releasing a limited edition (500 copies) 4-song EP on 12" yellow vinyl, comprising the songs from biG GRunt's John Peel session, originally broadcast in March 1970. The EP spans a variety of styles: there's the country-pop of Blind Date, the off-kilter psych-rock of 11 Mustachioed Daughters, and the angular, experimental reinterpretation of blues that is The Strain, all united by the madcap lyrical style Vivian Stanshall is known for. The EP closes with the instrumental Cyborg Signal, which is impossible to place into a single genre category, combining as it does elements of funky rock, psych-pop, Western and horror movie soundtracks, and even a dash of post-rock, from before post-rock had even been invented. Available at www.mega-dodo.co.uk

ANDY B Let It Drop, All Out of Luck and Can't Make You Stop CDRs (Pastime)
Prolific indiepop singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andy B (also of National Pastime and The Thought Clouds) is back with three new 2-track CDR singles as tasters for his forthcoming album, The Games You Play, due for release on Pastime Records later in 2016. Across the three singles you will find songs such as the melancholic, honest and introspective Let It Drop; Watching You, a wistful unrequited love song with jangly and dreamlike accompaniment; the catchy, C86-ish All Out of Luck; and the bouncy pop with jagged edges that is Can't Make You Stop. The CD versions are available at pastimerecords.webs.com and downloads at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com

RODNEY CROMWELL Fax Message Breakup (Happy Robots)
Rodney Cromwell (aka Adam Cresswell, formerly of Saloon and Arthur & Martha) returns with a new EP featuring a new single mix of Fax Message Breakup from his debut solo album Age of Anxiety, along with four exclusive remixes. The lead track sounds like a cross between Kraftwerk and the Pet Shop Boys, yet shot through with a DIY indiepop spirit. Next up is Hologram Teen's Video Suitors Remix of Fax Message Breakup, in which Morgane Lhote (ex-Stereolab) transforms the track into a slice of bouncy electronica that combines 1980s house with a driving motorik rhythm - real space-age party music! Chris Frain's remix of Baby Robot is instrumental synthpop with plenty of retro-futuristic sci-fi bleepage. Fax Message Breakup (AUW's Obsessive Perfection Remix) is a dark, brooding number, merging post-punk elements with atmospheric synthpop in a manner that emphasises the sense of despair conveyed in the lyrics. Cassiopeia (The Leaf Library Remix) features gently thrumming electronics alongside meandering psychedelic guitar. A great EP that brings together the best elements of popular electronic music from the 1980s and late 1970s and combines those with a strong underground attitude. Well worth checking out, as is everything else from Rodney Cromwell. Visit www.happyrobots.co.uk

THE HAYWAINS Girl in the Holly Court Diner 7" (Whoops!)
The first release on Whoops! Records, a brand new label started by Gary who used to run Dufflecoat Records, and Tom who ran Indie-MP3. The reformed Haywains' songs still have all the ingredients that made them such a great band back in the late 80s and early 90s. Their new 4-song EP is packed full of jangly, super-catchy indiepop with a DIY punk spirit. There are witty lyrics that bring out the bright side in all manner of frustrating situations, whether it's living in a drab town, finding out your girlfriend has found someone else, or supporting a football team that hasn't performed well since the 80s, and it's hard not to grin from ear to ear when faced with such a fun song as Love Torpedo! Fantastic stuff! Available on vinyl with poster and download code, exclusively through www.whoops-records.co.uk, or on download at thehaywains.bandcamp.com

THE HAYWAINS Who Needs Summer? white vinyl 7" (Snowflakes)
Hot on the heels of The Haywains' new EP on Whoops! Records comes the band's tenth single, which is part of Snowflakes' Christmas singles club. First up is The Haywains' own song Who Needs Summer?, which gives the band's rollicking punky indiepop a Christmas twist with festive fun lyrics, bom-bom-bom backing vocals, 'Christmas bells' synth sound, and children's excited shrieks. Then they do a brilliant version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which totally works as a punk-pop song, and put a massive grin on my face! The single is nicely presented, with artwork resembling a 1950s advertising poster, and pressed on snow white vinyl. Available at snowflakes.bigcartel.com. Further info on The Haywains at www.haywains.co.uk

ART OF THE MEMORY PALACE/CHEVAL SOMBRE/JACK ELLISTER/THE INSEKTLIFE CYCLE split 7" (Fruits de Mer/Static Caravan)
Fruits de Mer Records and Static Caravan have joined forces to release this split vinyl-only 7" with a track each from two bands/artists associated with Fruits de Mer and two who have previously released records via Static Caravan. Static Caravan's side gives us an instrumental piece from Art of the Memory Palace, which brings together whirring spacey electronica, retro soundtrack music, and a bassline that wouldn't sound out of place in a 1970s funk or disco track, followed by the sparse, melancholic songwriting of Cheval Sombre, in which the minimalistic, fractured sounds of the lo-fi hometaper scene are combined with a luxurious, neoclassical feel courtesy of guest viola player Gillian Rivers. Over on Fruits de Mer's side, Jack Ellister provides a fine slice of dreamlike psychedelic pop, whilst The Insektlife Cycle combine surf, shoegaze, psych and prog in their instrumental piece Sleep Crawler. Released December 5th 2016 alongside two bonus CDs; find out more at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com and www.staticcaravan.org

SENDELICA Nite Flights 7" (Fruits de Mer)
Out now on Fruits de Mer Records is the new single from Sendelica, featuring their version of the Walker Brothers' Nite Flights. The Walker Brothers may seem like an unusual influence for a spacerock band, but this wouldn't be the first time Sendelica have taken a song from a genre well outside of the psychedelic umbrella and made it their own; see also their 22 minute reinterpretation of Donna Summer's I Feel Love, which appeared on Fruits de Mer's Side Effects box set. The luxurious songwriting of Scott Walker is placed into a setting of dark, heavy psych rock, featuring a hypnotic chugging bassline and a touch of pulsating electronics alongside an intense whirlwind of psychedelic guitar. Female vocals also add a new facet to the track, the singer's voice being a perfect match for the song. Over on the B-side is Astralasia's Tabla Mix of Nite Flights, which brings the pulsating spaciness of the original to the fore while adding soaring saxophone for the main melody, as well as the Indian percussion as promised by the title of the mix. The single is pressed on limited edition coloured vinyl, available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

US AND THEM Fading Within the Dwindling Sun 10" (Fruits de Mer)
US AND THEM When I Was Walking 7" (Mega Dodo)

Two new releases from Swedish folk duo Us and Them: a 10" EP of Sandy Denny covers, out now on Fruits de Mer, and a 2-song 7" of their own material, released in January 2017 on Mega Dodo. The 10" is pressed on coloured vinyl and includes three songs written by Sandy Denny, along with two songs she is known for having performed: the Richard Thompson-penned Fairport Convention track Farewell Farewell, and the traditional folk ballad Banks of the Nile. Winter Winds is beautiful, hushed psych-folk augmented by lush strings. Farewell, Farewell has a soft and dreamlike feel, with guest musician Tony Swettenham's Mellotron adding to the ethereal mood of the arrangement. Next Time Around is reinvented as retro-futuristic, experimental folk-pop. Banks of the Nile has a luxurious feel with use of oboe and strings alongside floaty, atmospheric synth. Take Away the Load is gentle folk-pop accompanied by acoustic guitar and Mellotron orchestration.
The 7" is available as a limited edition of 150 green vinyl copies exclusive to members of the Mega Dodo singles club, and 150 black vinyl copies available on a wider basis. When I Was Walking is informed by traditional folk whilst also incorporating psychedelic whimsy and a gentle, ethereal brand of retro-futurism. Green Couch is delicate folk-pop, with sparse acoustic guitar alongside evocative, whirling vintage electronics. Both releases are simply beautiful and well worth checking out. Available at www.fruitsdemerrecords.com and www.mega-dodo.co.uk

MOLOKO+ Can't Wait Til Sunday lathe cut 7" (Fruits de Mer)
Released at the tail end of December, this lathe cut 7" was limited to just 50 copies, and as a result sold out before I had the chance to review it. However, Fruits de Mer have announced that there is still one last chance to get a copy as Record Collector magazine are running a competition to win one of two copies of the single, one of each cover design. Moloko+ (not to be confused with the better known Moloko, who were around later), were formed in 1990 from the ashes of two other Hull bands, powerpop outfit US Megachicks and 60s influenced band The Dempseys. Push aside any preconceptions of aural ultraviolence that their A Clockwork Orange-influenced name may conjure up; Moloko+'s actual sound is jangly pop that's informed by the 1960s but perhaps best appreciated as a lost artefact from the halcyon days of indiepop - that era that followed C86 but pre-dated the major labels' reinvention of 'indie' as just another soulless commercial genre. Whilst I was unaware of Moloko+ at the time they existed, their music would have fit squarely into the indiepop milieu that was my first introduction to underground music back in the day. Taken from their second demo, the two songs here are superb sunny pop with strong, catchy tunes and plenty of jangly guitar and vocal harmonies, guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any fan of classic late 80s/early 90s indiepop. Fruits de Mer are to be applauded for bringing these demos to the attention of a new audience, though the songs are so good that the single really deserves to be heard by more than just 50 people. Hopefully these tracks will appear again in another format some time in future. In the meantime, check out the current issue of Record Collector (January 2017) for details on the competition, and for more info on Moloko+, see the Fruits de Mer website.

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Shiver Me Timbers (The Hip Replacement)
New two track taster for the Soft Hearted Scientists' recent double album Golden Omens (reviewed in this issue's albums section). Shiver Me Timbers is a prime slice of super-catchy psych-pop with a chorus that burrows its way into the brain, while Crystal Coves is a more subdued and reflective take on psych-pop, pairing delicate acoustic guitar with atmospheric electronics. Very highly recommended - visit www.softheartedscientists.com

SERGEANT BUZFUZ Humble Pie EP CD (Blang)
The Blang label was founded by Joe Murphy of Sergeant Buzfuz, the label having grown out of a gig night also called Blang, held at London's 12 Bar Club, which celebrated the Antifolk scene. Antifolk is a tough genre to pin down and is perhaps best seen as more of an attitude than a specific sound. At its core, it describes lo-fi, quirky music with a sense of humour and a subversive punk spirit, which is inspired by folk music whilst rebelling against the genre's conventions. The term has however become broad enough to encompass bands with a shared ethos who would otherwise be classed as bedroom pop, punk, singer-songwriter, or outsider music. This new EP from Sergeant Buzfuz encapsulates well the mix of folky, punky, quirky ideas that Antifolk stands for, whilst adding much that is their own. Humble Pie is an ultra-melodic slice of 60s-ish psych-pop, given a folky twist with the addition of fiddle. People in Power is DIY pop with a raw garage sensibility and punk attitude, bringing in piano and folky banjo. The Whole Hospital's Talking About It features humorous workplace gossip narrated over quirky DIY music. The Ventriloquist's Funeral is a well-crafted and darkly humorous observational poem set to a haunting and hypnotic experimental folk melody. An inventive, free-thinking EP with a healthy disregard for genre barriers. Available at www.blang.co.uk

ANDY B The Waiting Game EP, Later Than You Think EP, The Fast Lane EP, Catch My Breath EP and Four Singles CDRs (Pastime)
Prolific indiepop artist Andy B, also of National Pastime and The Thought Clouds, has been busy making homemade recordings, resulting in the Coming Home album (to be reviewed soon) and this batch of new EPs. The Waiting Game EP features one new song and five reworked tracks from Andy's back catalogue, all inspired by the more melancholic side of late 80s/early 90s indiepop. Later Than You Think EP includes four songs from the album, the subdued and world-weary tracks here being counterbalanced by Messengers Passing Through, which gives a melancholic, emotional edge to rollicking chug-along punk-pop. The Fast Lane EP has seven songs, two album tracks appearing alongside some reworked older songs and a song called All the Help I Can Get, which I think is exclusive to this EP. The title track combines wistful indiepop with the hazy atmosphere of dreampop; Catch My Breath wraps vintage-style jangly indiepop in a cloud of fuzzy buzzy noise; and Days Pass Me By is plaintive indiepop with dreamlike synth orchestration. The Catch My Breath EP has 8 tracks compiled from the preceding EPs, whilst Four Singles consists of the title tracks from all four EPs. CDs can be purchased at pastimerecords.webs.com; downloads are available at pastimerecords.bandcamp.com

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