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Sugarbush have returned with some more albums since I last wrote about the label. Following their vinyl reissue of KONTIKI SUITE's On Sunset Lake, they have now released a remastered version of the band's second album The Greatest Show On Earth. The first pressing of this album was released by Sunstone Records in a limited edition that sold out immediately. Sugarbush are to be applauded for giving those who missed out on the album the first time around another chance to obtain a copy. Kontiki Suite are centred around songwriter and multi-instrumentalist brothers Benjamin and Jonny Singh, and make a classic kind of music rooted in the 1960s. Bring Our Empire Down is folky, psychey janglepop, a must for fans of The Byrds. My Own Little World is mellow country-rock with psychedelic undertones. Here For You Now is authentically 60s-sounding jangly harmony pop. Under the Rug is another very fine ultra-melodic 60s-styled folk-rock piece, this time bringing in wild psychedelic guitar and wailing harmonica. Keep Up With My Old Self is soaring, harmony-laden janglepop that may well appeal just as much to fans of the likes of BMX Bandits or Teenage Fanclub as it would to fans of 60s folk-rock. Burned begins as a rollicking number heading off towards freakbeat territory, and sounding so authentically retro that you'd be forgiven for thinking it a lost classic from the 60s. However, they then throw the listener a curveball by segueing into an instrumental section that blends an intense, elongated psychedelic jam session with hazy atmospheric effects more akin to dreampop. A superb album that's well worth checking out.

Sugarbush have released the vinyl version of Half Sentences by THE GREEN RAY, which is also out on CD from Reckless Records. It is pressed on green vinyl to match its sleeve, which features amazing nature-themed artwork by John Hurford, and also includes a full-colour photographic insert. The Green Ray were formed in the 1990s by Ken Whaley (Help Yourself, Man, Tyla Gang) and Richard Treece (Help Yourself, Tyla Gang, Donovan's Brain). Sadly, Ken passed away before this album was recorded, and Richard also passed away shortly after the album's completion. Despite these tragedies, Ken's brother Simon and the other band members have kept The Green Ray alive, and they can often be found gigging around London and assorted festivals. Planes Crashing Into Birds is a ten minute epic comprising mellow, blues-tinged psych-rock interspersed with heady psychedelic instrumental sections. Strange Bargains is excellent laid-back rock tinged with contemporary folk and featuring some nicely fluid guitar work. On Our Way to the Sun is folky, psychey rock with engagingly atmospheric effects. Rays of Light is a kaleidoscopic psych-folk instrumental equally informed by British and US folk traditions - very lovely stuff. Silent River Ride is blisteringly intense psych-rock with shades of The Bevis Frond, brought together with a hypnotic chug and some almost spacerockish sound effects. A fine album from Sugarbush's rockier side.

THE GREEN PAJAMAS return to Sugarbush with their fourth album for the label, Supernatural Afternoon, which brings together ten tracks taken from roughly twenty years' worth of single releases. The vinyl is a very lovely shade of purple, and the cover art features Susanne Kelly's striking painting Zitkala-Sa. Whilst the recordings cover a broad time span, they are carefully chosen to form a cohesive album. January Girl is orchestrated classic pop. Big Black Storm combines psych-rock, powerpop and orchestration to create a sense of drama and menace. Who is the Girl is intelligently crafted psych-pop with a choppy-changey song structure and an atmosphere that is whimsical yet with a dark undercurrent. Kill the Power is superb folk-rock beefed up with gutsy powerpop and intense psych-rock elements. The Red, Red Rose is psychedelic folk-rock with the chilling starkness and violence of a gothic novel. Anyone familiar with The Green Pajamas will know to expect poetic lyrics that tell vivid stories, set to similarly well-crafted music.

Sugarbush Records have embarked on an extensive TRAPPIST AFTERLAND reissue programme, starting with Afterlander, which as with Kontiki Suite's album, previously appeared on Sunstone Records in an extremely limited form that many missed out on, and which now commands massive prices on the collectors' market. The Sugarbush edition is remastered and comes with poetic and evocative sleeve notes by Current 93's David Tibet. Afterlander is an album of dark-edged psych-folk in which mystical Christian imagery is accompanied by a whole array of Middle Eastern and medieval instruments. Where the Willows Weep combines traditional-inspired folk with heady Eastern psychedelia and experimental sound manipulation. Jessie's Root is a hypnotic piece with meditative bells and drones. A Jar on Mystics is mellow, pensive folk with very beautiful flute ornamentation. The Psalms Remain the Same is absorbing, moving and atmospheric. Hillsong Leeches brings in harmonium, tablas, dulcitar and soaring celebratory vocals. A really excellent album that's a must for fans of psych-folk and dark folk/neofolk/apocalyptic folk alike, and will surely appeal to anyone who appreciates Stone Breath, In Gowan Ring, Current 93, or Unto Ashes. Kudos to Sugarbush for giving more people a chance to hear it.

Four more Trappist Afterland albums have since come out on Sugarbush which I don't yet have, but hopefully I will be able to report on these shortly. All available Sugarbush releases can be ordered at www.sugarbushrecords.com


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Text Kim Harten, 2018.