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


Sugarbush Records return with a new batch of LPs, starting with Broken Circle, the second album from THE GREEK THEATRE, limited to 300 copies on grey vinyl. They are the Swedish duo of Sven Fröberg and Fredrik Persson, who are joined here by nine guest musicians including Lisa Isaakson and David Svedmyr from Lisa O Piu and Me and My Kites. This is a truly amazing psych-folk-rock album, combining elements from the UK and US interpretations of the genre. Cinematic and dreamlike orchestral instrumentation appears alongside intense psychedelic guitar work, creating a fully immersive listening experience. Fat Apple (At About Noon) is epic and ambitious, with filmic neoclassical moments rubbing shoulders with American style folk and blistering psych-rock. Stray Dog Blues is, despite its title, airy sunshine pop with folky undertones and a nice ethereal intro and outro. Broken Circle is mellow prog-folk with a stunning vocal harmony part that reverberates as if recorded in a cathedral. Now is the Time is beautiful, delicate psych-folk with hushed vocals and soft bell percussion, building up to a crescendo of Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies and triumphant blasts of trumpet. If this band were around in the late 60s or early 70s, they would surely be hailed amongst the greats. This album is really something special - I can't recommend it enough!

THE BRERETONS are the sister/brother duo of Charlotte and Mark Brereton, whose backing band includes amongst others Paul Winter-Hart of Kula Shaker. Sugarbush have released their debut album Keep You Safe as a limited edition of 200 copies on blue vinyl and 200 on green. Something of a departure from the powerpop/janglepop/psych emphasis of most Sugarbush releases, The Breretons make a stylish and sophisticated brand of music which takes in elements of folk, Americana, singer-songwriter, intelligent pop, and alternative rock. Skin I Live In is very lovely American-influenced folk with a nice mix of jangly guitars and strings. Love It is grown-up pop with a country twang. Sweet Release is full of melancholic beauty, transforming the normally happy-go-lucky "sha-la-la" into the sound of heartache. Locked Up turns the volume up for a slice of dark and tense alternative rock. I Think I May adds a modern pop sensibility to American old-time music. The Breretons have a polished contemporary folk sound which, if there's any justice, is sure to catapult them towards much bigger things. When you see them picking their prizes up at the BBC Folk Awards, just remember you heard them first on Sugarbush!

Sugarbush have released the vinyl version of Summer Rain by THE WELLGREEN, who include Stu Kidd (KiDD, BMX Bandits, Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab) alongside Marco Rea, Daniel McGeever and Jim McGoldrick. The album is a limited edition on mint green vinyl. Songs like the ultra-melodic, feel-good harmony pop of Summer Rain, the folk-tinged 60s-ish pop of Jennifer, the bouncy 70s-style powerpop of Grin and Bear It, the Beatlesque Remember, and the light and airy sunshine pop of of The Circle make this album an absolute must for fans of classy, sophisticated and authentically vintage-sounding pop.

Over a year in the making, Sugarbush's compilation album A SPOONFUL OF SUGARBUSH finally sees the light of day. It comprises tracks from Sugarbush artists, related bands, and newcomers to the label, all of which are presently unavailable elsewhere on vinyl. The album is limited to 150 copies on green vinyl and 150 on red, packaged within swirly psychedelic artwork. There's super-melodic and often jangly pop from Caddy, Andy Reed, Chris Richards, Orgone Box and Trolley. Label boss Markus Holler appears with a solo track, Little Pretender, blending a strong sunny melody with a fuzzy, punky chug to create a song with all the hallmarks of great powerpop. He appears again with his early 90s band The Silent Blue, who make an effective mix of powerpop and American-style folk-rock with a strong catchy tune. The Hangabouts make 60s-tinged pop, with Mellotron adding a dreamlike, psychedelic feel. Maladaptive Solution appear with a psych-pop track with sitar, tablas, and soaring, ethereal backing vocals. The Green Pajamas contribute a superb slice of dark-edged psych-pop. The Dowling Poole appear with a twisty-turny prog-punk-pop song that's a must for Cardiacs fans. Future Harmonies are Robyn Gibson and Duncan Maitland; here they cover the Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? theme song Whatever Happened to You?, which was co-written by Mike Hugg of Manfred Mann. Future Harmonies' version has an authentically vintage approach, a country-tinged, jangly harmony-pop song that sounds like a lost classic from the early 1970s. Wall of Orchids is Lane Steinberg's pre-8x8 project, who had an EP out on Bus Stop a few years ago; here they appear with Come Back to Me, which blends janglepop with light and airy orchestration in a way that comes across rather like an indiepop version of late-period Beach Boys. Whilst the album spans several subgenres of guitar-oriented pop, the bands have a shared aesthetic, making A Spoonful of Sugarbush a complete listening experience, not just a label sampler.

UPDATE: Since writing the above, I have now received two new releases from Sugarbush. First up, THE CAROUSELS' second album for the label, Sail Me Home St Clair. I love the artwork for this, which blends Art Nouveau aesthetics with a historical maritime theme. The music, a mellow, late 60s-ish brand of country-rock, is just as impressive. Wishing Well is really beautiful, with a melancholic mood, employing glockenspiel-like keyboard for an ethereal effect. Lake Eloise brings together super-jangly guitars, folky fiddle and sighing steel guitar for an overall sound that is summery, dreamlike and moving. New Morning is a prime slice of Byrds-esque jangly folk-rock, augmented by lashings of retro organ. Man out of Me is more subdued and bleak than everything else here, yet with a glimmer of hope shining through. An absolutely superb album, very highly recommended.

Sugarbush have brought out a vinyl version of KONTIKI SUITE's debut album On Sunset Lake, which was previously released on CD in 2012. The LP is pressed on summery yellow vinyl, a perfect match for the artwork and music. Centred around songwriting brothers Benjamin and Jonny Singh, Kontiki Suite are doing a fantastic job of bringing the sound of late 1960s California into the 21st century. See You in the Morning is mega-jangly US-style folk-rock with psychedelic undercurrents, with woozy, atmospheric Mellotron effects and laid-back lap steel evoking the feel of a lazy, hazy summer day. Hollywood is folky janglepop, reminding me a little of The Tyde. In My Head is an ultramelodic, late 60s-ish number combining rocky and jangly aspects. Open Up and Smile is bouncy, sunny country-rock. She Gets High is psych-rock with a totally authentic late 60s sound. Watching Over Me is Byrdsy jangly folk-rock wrapped in an ethereal haze. Music Man straddles the boundaries of folk, janglepop and sunshine pop, incorporating a soaring string arrangement. Magic Carpet Ride is the most overtly psychedelic track here, with swirling atmospheric noise and hypnotic repetition alongside tanpura bringing elements of Indian music to the piece. I love this album and eagerly await the imminent re-release of Kontiki Suite's second album on Sugarbush.

Find out more about this superb label at www.sugarbushrecords.com


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Text © Kim Harten, 2017.