Sunday, 24 August 2014

Tir na nOg - I Have Known Love 7" (OUT NOW!)

Legendary Irish folk duo cover Silver Apples on their latest 7”

It would seem that Tir na nOg have been around forever. Actually that's not true, although they inked their first record contract in 1970, which in musical terms is as good as, the pair split in 1974 after their first run of albums before tentatively reuniting in 1985. Fortunately they can still cut it, as evidenced by this 4 track EP on Fruits De Mer Records. The lead track is a beguilingly beautiful cover of Silver Apples' “I Have Known Love”, a surprising choice perhaps but one that makes perfect sense on hearing, its melody reclaimed from the obscuring noise, Americana brought back home to Ireland. With lyrics of sailing boats which fit well with this concept of Atlantic criss-crossing.

Their pair's own songwriting is as strong as ever, with the three original songs exuding a timeless loveliness. “You In Yellow”, written and sung by Sonny Condell, pays homage to warm days and their effects on nature and our emotions, with Leonard Cohen-esque melody enhanced by gypsy violin and finger-picked acoustic guitar. “The Angelus”, again by Condell tackles the bigger issues of religion and afterlife. “I Pick Up Birds” is written and sung by Leo O'Kelly and has a freshness that would shame a lot of contemporary indie bands and relates a true story that happened to the author at a funeral. An impressive mini-collection of songs showing that acid-folk has a present and a future as well as a past.

Click here for Tir na nOg's website
Click here for the Fruits De Mer website.

Naam / White Hills / Black Rainbows / The Flying Eyes - Desert Fest Split LP

Four bands for the price of one showcasing the best of Italy's Heavy Psych Sounds label.

Split releases are an interesting affair. The hope is that the each band's music will sit comfortably on such a format and compliment that of the other bands. When they work everyone's a winner – the musicians, label and especially us humble music consumers. For the music fan they're often a gateway or inroad into new sonic adventures. You buy the thing because it features one band and end up liking and investigating the other bands.

This four way split featuring acts on the Heavy Psych Sounds record label is a good example. Four bands – (Naam, White Hills, Black Rainbows and The Flying Eyes), each having 2 songs to let us know what they're about. Or just the one in White Hills' case. Although already familiar with the work of Black Rainbows (click here for a review of their Holy Moon album), the other acts are new to me so we'll look at them first.

Naam open the proceedings with “Skyscraper (Ambient Remix)”. The bracketed part of the title will give you a clue to what this track is about. It feels like the calm before the storm, as if we're being broken in gently. It's not until their following track that we get a truer sense of what they're about. “Thickening Web” is infused with a dread and foreboding that the title suggests. Hypnotically repetitive, circling and building. More Krautrock than stoner-rock which comes as a surprise given the stylistic reputation of the label.

White Hills' sole track “They've Got Blood... Like You've Got Blood” is an eleven minute epic opening with with random oscillations, mariachi trumpet and angry voices before drums begin to swell the track into something grander. Again there's more drone than rock, hinting at a new direction or offshoot for the label perhaps. It's not until the eight and a half minute mark before the track takes an unexpected turn into Kraftwerk-influenced electronica. Expect the unexpected as the saying goes.

Next up are Black Rainbows with some altogether familiar hard-driving stoner-rock on “Viper Rock”. Guitar fuzzy, hoary rock god vocals. It's safe but good ground. It's not until the band's second offering that they show us what they're really capable of. “Minor Monster Galaxy Message” is a slower, more nuanced affair with some lovely delicate electric piano midway through.

It's left to The Flying Eyes to round off the album. Their first track “Golden Grey” has a stately grandeur about it, with guitars holding long high notes over the Eddie Vedder-esque vocals. They follow this up with “Evil Little Leslie”, (a nod the rotating speaker cabinet used on the vocal no doubt), which makes use of Hubert Sumlin's Spoonful riff. All in all this is a surprisingly varied and rewarding compilation. Keep your mind open and you'll end up liking at least one of the bands here more than you thought you would.

Click here for the Heavy Psych Sounds website.

Tor-Peders – Brev Fran Ederstorp (LP + 7”)

Already sold out LP of Swedish surf-prog proves an almost lost classic and future collectable.

It's not often that I review an album that's already sold out of its limited pressing. Due to my own tardiness and ease by which I'm distracted (blame the World Cup), I find myself reviewing an LP (& 7”) that's already sold out of its limited pressing. And understandably so. More remarkable than that is that this great album almost never saw the light of day.

Tors-Peders only released one single during the active years of the band, though played several gigs in their native Sweden. Though this album had been recorded, the tragic death of guitarist Jonas in a car accident marked the end of the band. Their recordings were in danger of laying idle were it not for the good taste and tenacity of Keith at Fruits De Mer Records.

So quite a back story, but what of the music? Imagine a music that has the adventurousness of prog-rock, the dynamics and propulsion of surf-rock along with the meditation-inducing qualities of space-rock. Anyone with an ear for late '60s/early '70s music will dig this instrumental LP. If you dig that heavy, heavy bone-shaking Hammond vibe you'll love this. And if you ever wondered what Deep Purple would sound like with Ritchie Blackmore replaced by Dick Dale, look no further.

The attention to detail packaging is worthy of a mention too – textured gatefold sleeve, embossed by the same machine used for the Jeff Beck LP no less! With early pressings on clear vinyl. Although it's sold out via the FDM website already, if you're lucky you may be able to track a copy down through a specialist dealer or shop. Happy hunting!

Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Suzi Chunk and Groovy Uncle - Barefoot In The Car Park (Ltd 7")

A taster from the pairing's forthcoming LP. Part seven in State Records' Soundgate Sound Acetate series.

This limited 7” single has a lot to live up to. Suzi Chunk's last long-player Girl From The Neck Down was a real artistic success and a personal favourite to boot. Fear not though, “Barefoot In The Car Park” stands up well against any track from the album. An uptempo soul-swinging beat with a surf-guitar coda it evokes an idealised version of neighbourhood. The swinging sixties sound they make still sounds fresh and spirited. It bodes well for forthcoming album Persuaded.

B-Side “Wet Weekend” is something of a Sunday morning comedown compared to the A-side's Saturday night party vibe. All minor-key, post White Album melancholia, its after-the-party feel is perfectly captured by descending chords and an exquisite melodica solo. It conjures up the feeling of walking home through early morning drizzle when things haven't quite worked out as you hoped and you can't see beyond the next working week. Sadness never sounded so good.

Click here for more on Suzi Chunk.
Click here for the State Records website.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Paul Messis - Nightmares b/w Penny Arcade (Ltd 7" - OUT NOW!)

13 O'Clock Records release the fifth solo single from West Sussex garage wonderkid.

There's plenty of music made under the banner of garage, but most of it doesn't hold a candle to that made by Paul Messis. His last album Case Closed (click here for review) was one of the 2013's best underground releases with his knowledge of the genre's history shining through, the melodies matched by an integrity and unique worldview.

His current single Nightmares, (recently released by Texas based psych label 13 O'Clock Records) similarly does not disappoint. Lyrically it deals with the continuing mediocrity of modern life and is propelled by modal, psychedelic guitar breaks. Part Byrds, part Electric Prunes. Though the sound is firmly rooted in '60s obscurities it has a freshness many contemporary garage releases lack.

Flipside Penny Arcade has an altogether gentler feel, more folk-rock jangle than garage-psych snarl. With wistful sentiment, it's full of romantic longing and neatly offsets the A-side's angry bite. Unconcerned with prevailing trends and fashion, Messis' music stands out as a shining beacon, an example of how records could and should be made.

Out now and limited to 500 copies. Check out the links and video for Nightmares below.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Galileo 7 - False Memory Lane (OUT NOW!)

Former Prisoners bassist Allan Crockford returns with third of album of softly psychedelic Britpop.

As bass player for The Prisoners, Allan Crockford's influence on British guitar music is assured. That the band never went on to mainstream success remains a mystery, but their legacy resonates still. And of course there are many ways to measure success, one being how much enthusiasm and desire one maintains to carry on making music. With this in mind you could say Allan Crockford and Prisoners' guitarist Graham Day are two of the most successful musicians around, though I doubt you'd recognize them on the street. And getting papped is probably not an issue for them. As Graham Day & The Forefathers they've just released a storming debut single (read about it here).

Crockford is a busy chap – along with bass-playing for the Forefathers, he's the main writer, vocalist and guitarist in his own band The Galileo 7, whose third long-player False Memory Lane has recently been released. Compared to The Forefathers material it's a record that's less about sonic attack, more about melody and harmony. It's altogether softer on the ear, subtler, though no less appealing. A satisfying blend of Medway mod, Britpop and home counties soft psychedelia, its key comparisons would be XTC, Martin Newell, and the much underrated Dodgy. With a catchy set of tunes, (driven by the sort of melodies Noel Gallagher would love to have written), plenty of bah-bah-bahs in the backing vocals, acoustic textures and vintage Mellotron upping the soft-psych quota, it's one of the summer's best under-the-radar releases.

It's worth noting the Medway towns are something of an anomaly, being out of step with the home counties general air of respectability and conformity. Rather than the Good Life's Margot and Jerry, its population is seemingly made up of vintage guitar wielding, retrogressive garage rockers intent on trying to recreate authentic '60s beat recordings. Sounds like heaven on earth doesn't it. Perhaps it's this desire to recreate that's behind the album's title. False Memory Lane would certainly be an apt street name for Rochester or Chatham. Town planners, you can have that one on Allan Crockford. The campaign starts here.

Click here for The Galileo 7's website.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Stalins Of Sound - Tank Tracks (OUT NOW!)

Make noise not war! A bludgeoning attack on the senses from San Diego's leading synth-punk band.

In the current political climate it's maybe not the best career move to name your band after a Russian dictator, but your have to admit, Stalins Of Sound is an inspired choice of name. It suggests a sound that's uncompromising, hard hitting, oppressive. Music that's been made not to endear yourself to anyone but to issue some sort of year-zero manifesto, some sort of call to arms. That's a lot to live up to but to varying degrees of success, Tank Tracks does just that.

Although at times suffering from a demo-like quality (it was recorded in a bedroom so we can forgive that), this debut album does at least have an aesthetic, an intent and a purpose. Its message is to wake up and shake up, aided by aggressively programmed drum machines, distorted guitars and shrill synth lines. So from a political and aesthetic point of view it ticks some pertinent boxes. But musically is it any good? Is it a Sherman tank or more merchant bank?

Despite its rip-it-up-and-start again ethos it does have some predecessors and touchstones – the uncompromising industrial assault of Einstürzende Neubauten, Big Black metallic sheen, and Devo's subversive art-punk. Over its nine tracks, the drum machine is relentless in its pummelling, with abrasive metallic guitars, vocals that mean-it-maan and nary a pentatonic scale in sight. Whatever your definition of punk-rock, this is it.

A nice attention to detail sees this album released on the nineteenth anniversary of Shawn Nelson's tank theft and subsequent rampage through San Diego. (An event also used for the cover art). If you like your music loud, edgy, unpolished and unapologetic this one's for you.

Click here for Stalins Of Sound's website.
Click here for Slovenly Records.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Wisdoom - Hypothalamus (OUT NOW!)

Music to feel unsettled by. Four epically sludgy tracks of doom metal on The Wisdoom's debut mini LP. A Heavy Psych Sound indeed!

It's been four years since The Wisdoom unleashed their self-titled debut EP, in which time the band have honed their sound into an immensely heavy, hypnotic, almost hallucinogenic beast. Their recently released debut long-player Hypothalamus is testament to that. Despite the fact it features only four songs, it clocks in at just short of 45 minutes (or one side of a C90 in old money). The Greek theme extends to the song titles – Alpha, Theta, Delma and Oneiron. Such a concept all adds to the album's weightiness.

Though very much a genre band (don't expect them to cross-over onto daytime radio One or Two), the Roman quartet will tick all boxes for fans of doom and sludge metal. Opening track Alpha has guitar chords that are avalanche heavy. With chord sequences and stops and starts that do their best to disorientate your ears before the vocals kick in and the track finds its feet.

Theta sees the band in more meditative mode, with more considered guitar lines, sonics and atmospherics starting the track before the slow onslaught of drums and occasional forays into sampled spoken word. Just like it says on the album's label this is a Heavy Psych Sound, designed to alter perception and take you to auditory places you've not visited before.

Delma comes across as likely to feature on some B-movie horror soundtrack, the perfect musical accompaniment to something heinous and unspeakable. I guess that's just how the band intended it. Music to feel unsettled by.

And the album title? It refers to an almond-sized portion of the human brain that links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. So there you go. You don't need a medical degree however to enjoy Hypothalamus, just a set of powerful speakers and tolerant neighbours will suffice.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Fast Camels - Deadrooms And Butterfly Dreams

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Come for a ride with The Fast Camels' as they re-visit psych's golden era, and tell us some cheeky tales on the way.

Plenty here on The Fast Camel's second long-player to keep a retronaut happy. Sonically it's a potted trip round '60s art-pop landmark sounds. The west coast of the US is represented by some fringed jacket chime, along with some sunset-strip garage-punk snarl. Elsewhere there's a distinctly more British flavour, with songs that favour a more feakbeat feel, or even a sparser acid-folk sound. Album opener Bruisy Bedlock has all these moments and more condensed into one song, and comes across like one of the Who's mini operas, right down to the seedy characters and storylines.

Most bands would close an album with such an ambitious opus but The Fast Camels set their stall out from the start. It works, whetting the appetite for whatever musical treats they also have in store. There's also a nod to later British psych artists such as The Coral and Teardrop Explodes on Ken's Sad Vice, which comes complete with Farfisa stabs and could well be the best tune Julian Cope never wrote.

This record proves one thing - that you really can say anything you want in a song so long as the pill is softened by good enough music. There are songs about masturbation and other sexual peccadilloes that because the music has a sacharrine sweetness it'll no doubt sidestep any radio censorship. It's this laddish Britpop swagger that marks that despite the retro nods squarely places the album in the 21st century. That said, all the familiar '60s tricks and textures are here, from Keith Moon fills to Beatle-esque harmonies and cello with Moog moodiness. Call it neo-psych, or new-retro, a homage to a time when real men wrote concept albums.

It's been seven years since The Fast Camels' debut album The Magic Optician was released. The intervening years have seen the band lose momentum due to a revolving door of line-up changes. Fair play to them for not losing sight of their goals however. Their latest record proves their worth and sits nicely alongside the classic '60s albums that have clearly influenced them. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Glasgow this Friday night you can see the band live at their album launch gig, details on the flyer below.

Clickhere for The Fast Camels' website.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sultan Bathery - Debut Self-Titled LP (OUT NOW!)

Boundary pushing garage fuzz from Italy. Not your average three chord rattle and rush.

It would be nice to be able to say that this self-titled debut LP by Sultan Bathery is something of a concept album. It isn't, unless that concept is putting together twelve tracks of psychedelic, yet poppy garage-rock that do away with any genre-based expectations and take things to an altogether more interesting place.

It's garage certainly, the cheap stompbox fuzz and Link Wray guitar lines take care of that. But perhaps more garage-pop than garage-rock, with an added dash of speedy freakbeat, all twisted through a haze of incense or hooka-pipe smoke.

Melody is as important as sonic assault, which when presented via detached, English-as-second-language vocals ups the record's pop quota, albeit pop that sneers. The vocal melodies seem simple at first, though deeper investigation reveals something altogether more complex and involved.

Its the inventive guitar work, and slightly off-kilter riffs that lie at the heart of the album's appeal however. From the clattering punk rush of opening track Satellite, complete with Dick Dale surf guitar and on through the remaining eleven tracks, it's a real trip daddio! Like a gutsier version of Triptides they take the template of late '60s psych-pop and make it modern and contemporary.

The boxy garage production values may hamper any cross-over appeal, and unfortunately it's safe to say they won't be headlining Glastonbury this year. But for the initiated, at least we can have them as our favourite secret band for a while longer. Like the soundtrack to some cheap late '60s sci-fi series, it's a nice, slightly retro affair. Like a sound whose time has finally come.

Click here for Sultan Bathery on Facebook.
Sultan Bathery is out now on SlovenlyRecords.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Socks - The Socks (OUT NOW!)

Heavy wicker-rock! Classic heavy vibes from France for those that like it earthy and old school!

Was there something in the water in the '70s that increased hair growth in young men? And also gave them a pre-disposition towards making groove-propelled heavy rock? If so that water is in plentiful supply in Lyon, France. The Socks are a four-piece rock band from said city, whose music worships the Holy Trinity of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

With one foot in the guitar shop buying overdrive pedals and vintage amps, and the other on the dense forest floor fighting off dragons and saving maidens this is classic heavy rock, with lyrics that have a mystical, mythical bent. Magik, dragons, sorcery and all that arcane malarkey. And why not? It sure as hell beats the real world don't it! This album has got that post hippie era feel, where rock had lost any notion of naïvety and became heavier, infused with a driving, dark energy.

The album's cover features a beaked mask made up of bark and leaves. There's a real forest undergrowth, pagan feel to it all, helped in no small part by the mushroom brown hues. It's art that hints at all things folkloric. Similarly the music has that earthy, organic feel. Like a more metallic version of Wolf People, this is music that goes against the grain of modern society and searches for truth and beauty in a sound that may hark back to previous eras but resonates with a truth and beauty that remains eternal.

OK, it won't be everyone's cup of nettle tea, and no amount of electric sorcery will turn mods into rockers after all. But for anyone who feels they were born a few decades too late, or is looking for something to remind them of rock's golden years this is just the thing. Wah-wah guitar solos, paint-stripping vocals, and a band that understands how to play heavy. A fine full-length debut from The Socks and a fitting addition to the Small Stone Records catalogue.

Click here for The Socks' website.
Click here for Small Stone Records

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers – Love Me Lies (Ltd 7” - released 19th May)

Heavy slab of mod-rock from Medway legend. Part five in State Records' Soundgate Sound Acetate series.

State Records continue to release consistently good garage singles. As their tag-line says they release “records that sound like records”. Part six in their Sandgate Sound Acetate series could well be the best yet, and marks the vinyl debut for Graham Day's new band The Forefathers. The Medway garage legend is best known for his records with the Prisoners, the Solar Flares, and the Prime Movers. Though after these bands he's continued to put out some sterling music as leader as Graham Day &The Gaolers, along with his stint as bassist in The Buff Medways. Graham's new band the Forefathers sees him reunite with Prime Movers/Buffs drummer Wolf Howard,with bass player Allan Crockford completing the power trio line-up.

A-side “Love Me Lies” opens with piercing guitar feedback before the swaggering riff kicks in. It's the kind of ballsy mod-rock that recalls the best of Marriott, Townshend, and early Jimi Hendrix Experience, complete with a brash rawness rarely heard these days. Flipside “30-60-90” is a manic freakbeat instrumental which showcases just how tight a unit this band is. As a live group they must take your head off. This single is limited to 500 copies on heavy vinyl with hand-stamped sleeve. My guess is that it will sell out fairly quickly so get your pre-orders in early.

Click here for more on Graham Day & The Forefathers.
Click here for the State Records website.

Paul "Lefty" Wright - Songs From The Portal

Maverick session musician branches out with a sprawling double LP. It's an adventurous trip, expect the unexpected!

It's not often an record truly surprises you but this risk-taking gem has it all. Brimming with the sum of a myriad of musical influences, Songs From The Portal is a sprawling, playful mind-map of arcane musical avenues, recalling the best of '60s into '70s psych/prog, outré pop, Tropicália along with the odd foray into middle eastern scales and time signatures. Wright's love and enthusiasm for all things psychedelic shines through. From Os Mutantes to Aphrodite's Child, the influences are there though all presented with an arty playfulness that's sadly lacking from a lot of other modern psych records.

This is no re-hashed retro trip though, there's nothing predictable about this album, you just can't second guess it. It's the sonic equivalent of routing through a well-stocked olde curiosity shoppe, unearthing sounds and rhythms you'd forgotten about or never even knew existed. Wright has sifted through all manner of musical bric-a-brac and objet trouvé, and curated them in his own unique manner. It's an album that's not afraid to take risks, and while you may not like every song, (there are twenty one of them after all), you have to admire the far-reaching ambition.

There are surprising twists and turns along the way. Along with the ever present psych and prog feel you journey through piano jazz (Jam At Jim's), spaghetti western mariachi (Uncle John (Why Are You Crying?)), and the channelling of some musical greats – early Bowie on Hipgnomes, and David Axelrod on Hypnotist to mention just two. It's Wright's own personality and expertise that reigns supreme though. His wide-reaching musicality combined with a sense of fun are perhaps best represented on the opening track A Tap On The Shoulder. It's a spooky, supernatural tale complete with a bizarre and infectious late lyrical flourish. Vinyl-heads will be pleased to know there's a limited double LP version available. Buy with confidence, trust me, I just know you'll like it.

Click here for more Paul “Lefty” Wright online.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Beau - Fly The Bluebird

Brand new album from one of John Peel's early favourites shows that there is a future for musical protest.

It's been three years since Trevor Midgeley (AKA Beau) released an album of new material. Last year did however see the release of a lost album from the 1970s, a vinyl-only release entitled Twelve Strings to The Beau (You can read the full review here). This month Cherry Red are releasing a new album, Fly The Bluebird. As one would expect it's generously packed with wordy, intelligent folk-based songs that you don't often here these days, and harks back to the golden era of singer-song-writers. Think Bob Dylan, or Leonard Cohen. Though with a distinctly English perspective.

It's 45 years since his first album helped launch John Peel's Dandelion label. His sound has hardly altered in the ensuing years, he still backs himself with the same Harmony 12-string guitar, his recordings are simple - just one voice, and the one guitar. This continuity of sound, and disregard for changing fashions is to be admired, especially as none of his powers are diminished. If anything the advancing of years adds weight and authority to his songwriting. The voice and playing are also as strong as ever.

Though many of the songs are informed by modern political events they have a timeless quality, sounding like they could have been written in 2014, 1969 or for that matter 1869. Poetic and rich with imagery, there's a lot to absorb from the songs here. From environmental issues, through to skilful broadswords against capitalism, tyranny, terrorism and war, the songs have a biting social agenda not at first apparent due to the offsetting gentleness of much of the music.

Aside from the politics there's light relief as Beau weighs into a character we've all met, the overbearing social bore he documents on “A Curious Man”. There's also a sensitive treatise on the cruel effects of dementia in “When Gabriel Turns”. Humanistic, compassionate and full of love for mankind and what lies ahead as we head into the unknown future, it would seem that those supposedly outdated hippie ideals from the late '60s are very much alive if not so widely embraced. Perhaps we need them more than ever. Many more widely recognised musicians of Beau's generation have neglected these ideals, whereas he may just be the true keeper of the flame.

Click here for more on Beau.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bananas Magazine #9 - OUT NOW!

Spring is here, and for garage rockers that can only mean one thing! The latest issue of the NYC-based garage zine is available now!

Great news for fans of fuzz, pych, garage and lo-fi punk. The latest issue of the scene's best quarterly magazine is ready for your perusal. I love this mag, it's a great read that always manages to point you in the direction of great new bands as well as reminding you why you fell for garage rock in the first place. And it has a sense of the genre's humour that other zines sometimes overlook in their quest for that all elusive authenticity.

On top of the comprehensive and informed reviews the mag has interviews with King Salami, Viv And The Sect, Shag Rats, Dead Ghosts, Giant Robots and more. There's also a feature on Benidorm's Funtastic Dracula Festival, as well as a spotlight on the artwork of Lluis Fuzzhound. (

The guitarists among us will have fun trying out the issue's psych-themed tabs which this time round have riffs and breaks by Iron Butterfly, The Troggs, The Attack and Teddy And His Patches. Plug in and play indeed! Hit the link below for a list of the magazine's ditributors or order direct from their website.

NB. As well as being an ace read, Bananas also features many amazing illustrations by the mag's editor, Christophe Lopez-Huichi. Check out the link to his website below to see more of his work.