SISSY SPACE ECHO & THE INVISIBLE COLLABORATORS The Day the Earth Caught Fire 7" (Old Bad Habits Label)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire brings together punk, post-punk and synthpop with apocalyptic sci-fi lyrics, coming across something like a darker, spikier version of 80s/90s sci-fi pop band Stormclouds. The intro to They'll Fix You (They Fix Everything) may lead the listener to expect a more subdued and melancholic number, with its atmospheric soundscaping, mournful wordless vocals and retro synth bleepage, but this soon gives way to a powerful mix of effervescent pop, rock 'n' roll riffs and punk energy. The band effectively juxtapose bleakness with a playful sense of fun. Another winner from the great Old Bad Habits Label! The single is pressed on silver vinyl, with inserts and sticker, and limited to 150 copies, with only a handful remaining at the time of writing. Available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
DREIHASENBILD Verikuu Sulkavan Yli 7" (Wet Barbed Wire)
Second single from Dreihasenbild, the solo project of Stefan Keydel of The Victor Mourning. Verikuu Sulkavan Yli is a jaw-droppingly beautiful composition inspired by the scene depicted on the cover, a blood moon casting dappled light over a Finnish lake. An eerily repeating keyboard melody with a music box-like tone, mournful violin, and vocal sections informed by folk and choral music are combined to create a deeply moving listening experience. Over on the B-side there is After the Madness, a cinematic drone piece simultaneously evoking tension and calm, underlaid with crackly found sounds like boots trudging through snow. A continually recommended artist, whose drone pieces have depth and genuine atmosphere, and whose neoclassical pieces are truly in a league of their own. Available at dreihasenbild.bandcamp.com
PERSONA Old Man, Young Woman lathe cut 7" (Sonido Polifonico)
Ultra-limited lathe cut 7" from Persona, the Sheffield duo of Raquel Vogl and Claire Williams. The four songs here are genuinely sinister, with harrowing lyrics dealing with abuse, stalking, isolation and fear, within a stark musical setting that puts an inventive spin on post-punk and DIY pop. There's the experimental art-pop of Old Man, Young Woman, pairing noisy guitar with eerie riffs that conjure images of clockwork machinery; Chauv with its hypnotic repetitive chug atmospherically overlaid with rattly sound effects and lyrics of terror sung so sweetly; the bleak post-punk of When a Woman Lives Alone; and Beneath My Screen, off-centre lo-fi noisepop that takes me back to my days in the 1990s DIY tapes scene. The single comes with all the extras you'd expect from Sonido Polifonico: two badges and a Bev Seth ceramic crow token with Jackson Pollock-inspired paint splodges in a hand-stamped envelope, a photographic art insert, and a lyric sheet printed on tracing paper, all packaged within a cardboard box. Limited to just 57 copies, only 5 left at the time of writing. Find out more at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
NICK JONAH DAVIS The Drifting/Xochi lathe cut 8" (Sonido Polifonico)
Another beautifully packaged single from Sonido Polifonico, a label that specialises in handmade releases which are complete works of art. This is an 8" single, lathe cut on clear plastic that is heavier than standard vinyl. It comes with an 8 page riso print booklet with abstract art by David Hand, and a photograph of Nick Jonah Davis, all within a hand-stamped, numbered black paper envelope, plus a gold foil-lined black envelope containing badges and a handmade ceramic crow token by Bev Seth. The hand-cut labels are the same both sides so it's not immediately obvious which track is which, but the one I played first features a lilting, meandering guitar melody swathed in echoey effects and accompanied by atmospheric found sounds. The piece transcends genre but has much to appeal to those who love psychedelic music or contemporary folk with experimental undercurrents. On the other side there is a cinematic experimental folk piece opening with a swelling ambient drone and found sounds that conjure up a feeling of distant voices in an underground passageway, creating an eerie ominous mood. The piece then develops into an eclectic guitar composition with melodies spanning British, American and maybe a touch of Far Eastern folk motifs, arranged in a hypnotic psychedelic style. Limited to just 57 copies and sold out immediately; more information on the label and its other releases at www.sonidopolifonico.co.uk
KANDIDE Big Fish 7" (Old Bad Habits)
Debut single from Kandide, who may be an unfamiliar name, but the list of other bands the members were, or are, in is impressive and reads like something of a who's who of alternative music since the 1970s: Swell Maps, Television Personalities, Househunters, Alternative TV, The Loft, The Weather Prophets, Rose McDowall's band, Subway Sect, Something Pretty Beautiful, Sergeant Buzfuz, and Shock-Headed Peters, to name just a few. Big Fish is improvised around lyrics by Jowe Head, with Jowe's one-of-a-kind gruff vocals offset by Ruth Tidmarsh's strongly melodic vocal harmonies, which culminate in a soaring siren song. The musical setting combines a hypnotic bass line, swirling synth ambience and intense psychedelic guitar improvisation to great effect. Anna Blume is another improvised piece, this time adapted from a poem by Kurt Schwitters. This is an altogether harsher track, with Jowe's vocals taking on a maniacal tone against a backdrop of bass that bobs about at angles, swathed in sheets of solid noise. A highly inventive offering; hopefully there will be more to follow from this band. The single is limited to 300 hand numbered copies on blue vinyl, with full colour insert with art and lyrics, Kandide sticker, and Old Bad Habits sticker. Available at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com
ADAM GEOFFREY COLE Seasick lathe cut 8" (Sonido Polifonico)
One of my favourite bands in recent years was Trappist Afterland; I was sad to find out that the project's founder Adam Geoffrey Cole would no longer be making music under the Trappist Afterland banner, but very pleased to learn that he had not given up music and would be returning with new releases under his own name. He has a new solo album, Fallowing, out very soon on Sunstone Records, and has also just released this extremely limited 8" lathe cut EP which features Seasick, a song that appears on the CD version of Fallowing but not the vinyl, and three other tracks that are exclusive to this EP.
As always with Sonido Polifonico, this release includes handmade packaging made with considerable care and attention to detail. The 8" lathe cut EP is packaged in a cardboard folder bound with red ribbon, with a sepia photo of Adam and his dog on the front, and on the inside there's seaside scenery printed on overhead projector film. A separate envelope contains two badges and a ceramic crow token brushed with blue glaze, designed by Bev Seth.
Adam Geoffrey Cole's solo songs are not as psychedelic as Trappist Afterland, though the songwriting style is still unmistakably his. Seasick is a new recording of a song co-written with Christian Bennett in 1997; modern songwriting beautifully arranged in folk style with some subtly Eastern hints at times. Death Behind Me and Cocoon are two prime slices of dark folk, with hurdy gurdy providing a mesmeric, atmospheric swirl. Summer Fallows is very lovely pastoral folk, accompanied by an intricate acoustic guitar melody and the relaxing hum of the harmonium.
An utterly amazing EP from one of my very favourite current artists. Limited to just 57 copies, it sold out instantly in physical form, but is still available as a download from trappistafterland.bandcamp.com/album/seasick-e-p
SPLASHING RAINBOWS Numbers 12" (Make Me Happy)
Six song EP on orange vinyl from Splashing Rainbows, the new project of Giorgos Kyriazis, formerly of 1990s indiepop band One Night Suzan. Indiepop only makes up a small part of Splashing Rainbows' sound; the surreal, kaleidoscopic artwork of a pipe organ pumping out swirling rainbows gives hints of what to expect from the music here. One (Is Fine) takes in a bouncy piano rhythm and brass section, the overall feel of the song having shades of psychedelic-era Beatles. Two (Is Right) is eccentric, chirpy pop with a chug-along rhythm that makes me imagine a psychedelic cartoon steam train puffing out rainbow smoke. After the demise of One Night Suzan, Giorgos got involved in classical music, and there are hints of that in Three (Is A Crowd), with theatrical vocals incorporating complex harmonies. Surrealistic lyrics like "Three is a river of tepid tea" are accompanied by an inventive juxtaposition of bombastic prog guitar soloing, airy clarinet and sweet indiepop touches.
Four (Blessings) combines the eccentricity of XTC with hints of the classic era of indiepop, taking on in addition an impressive choral vocal arrangement. Five (Stars) sounds like a vintage show tune accompanied by a gentle, meditative organ melody and soft, airy jazz brass. The EP goes out with a bang with Six (Days), an addictively catchy prog-pop piece punctuated with bursts of squalling guitar noise, counterbalanced by delicate indiepop jangle and classical piano. A highly creative set of songs that grows on me with each listen. Highly recommended. Limited to 200 copies. Contact the label at make-me-happy.bandcamp.com
BACK TO AQUAMARINE