Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Interview with Sheila Burgel


(This feature originally appeared in issue #57 of Shindig! Magazine. To read the full interview click over the jump.)


DJ Sheila Burgel talks about the enduring appeal of '60s girl-pop.

One point missed by many commentators on Prince's recent death was how much he championed female singers and musicians. A point not missed by DJ Sheila Burgel who dedicated part of her Sophisticated Boom Boom show on WFMU to highlight some of Prince's lesser known girl-pop moments. It was an affecting and insightful tribute, put together by someone who knows a thing or two about female-fronted music.

“When I first heard British singer Maxine Darren’s “How Can I Hide It From My Heart?” off the first Here Come the Girls compilation in 1995,” says Sheila explaining her eureka moment. “That shrill vocal! Those melodies! That bizarre arrangement! It completely floored me. Soon after the gates to girl-pop heaven opened, Francoise Hardy, France Gall, Sandie Shaw, the Cookies, Billie Davis, Twinkle, the Exciters, Dorothy Berry poured in….and my life was forever changed.”

Sophisticated Boom Boom features an eclectic mix of predominately female-fronted sounds and airs on WFMU out of New Jersey each Friday afternoon. When asked for a mission statement for the show Sheila says it's “restoring gender equality with the toughest, dreamiest, sweetest, sassiest, most infectious, hook-filled, girl-fronted pop from yesterday and today, and from all over the world!” Don't be surprised to hear '60s beat, yé- , Brill Building sounds and Japanese Pinky records alongside shoegaze, metal and gritty R&B. “Melody. Hooks. Magic,” says Burgel explaining what holds it all together, ”which is why I can love the Shangri Las, Alan Parsons Project, Janelle Monae, Megadeth, Lou Christie, Big Maybelle, Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, the Orlons, Slowdive, and so many more. It’s what they all have in common.”

WFMU is a beacon of music-led FM broadcasting, whose ad-free stance
has gained the station a worldwide audience. Its commitment to specialist knowledge and passion also gives its presenters the chance to share their vision with that audience. “With Sophisticated Boom Boom and all that I do, I am showing that female-fronted pop music is as valid, worthy, important, and enjoyable as many of the (mainly male) acts that are so fawned over by the rock establishment. Long ago, the rock critics somehow decided that Led Zeppelin are extremely important and worthy of our respect and that the Shangri Las are not, and I have a problem with that judgement.”

Aside from the radio show Sheila can be found DJing every third Friday at Our Wicked Lady Club in Brooklyn. Europeans will also get a chance to hear her club selections as she undertakes a two-week European DJ tour in August with dates in Helsinki, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Montenegro.

Having put together the Nippon Girls and Love Hit Me compilations on Ace Records, Sheila's quest to bring us the best in rare records shows no sign of letting up. “I just took on an enormous compilation project producing four volumes of '60s girl-pop. The access I get to photos, master tapes, and recording information is just unbelievable. And I get to select and sequence the tracks, write the liner notes, and art direct, so it’s a dream job, really.”


Sophisticated Boom Boom airs each Friday 3pm – 6pm (EST) on WFMU with shows archived at www.wfmu.org

Nippon Girls Vol 1 & 2 and Love Hit Me: Decca Girls 1962-66 are available from Ace Records.

For more on Sheila Burgel visit www.chachacharming.com 

Ryley Walker & Danny Thompson, Meg Baird - Ropery Hall 21/2/16


(This review first appeared in issue #55 of Shindig! magazine)


RYLEY WALKER & DANNY THOMPSON / MEG BAIRD
Ropery Hall, Barton-upon-Humber
SUNDAY 21st FEBRUARY

Tonight's venue sits a stones throw from the Humber Bridge, formerly the world's longest single span suspension bridge. Inside the hall it's continental and generational gaps that are being spanned, not rivers. Despite the 50-year age difference, the Walker/Thompson pairing is for many a dream billing.
Completing tonight's constellation is Meg Baird, whose opening set holds the audience in rapt awe. A drizzly night outside, “I love the rain... don't take your water for granted” she tells the audience before a stunning version of 'Don't Weigh Down the Light', a song written during California's recent droughts. Bless the weather indeed!
Though it's Sunday evening Walker takes a Saturday-sized swig of whisky before an hour-long set of mostly new material. At 76, Danny Thompson's hard drinking days may be over but his playing is as masterful and fluid as ever, his treasured Victoria bass as majestic live as on those classic recordings. His playing proves the perfect foil for Walker's fervent freewheeling. There are familiar tracks – 'Primrose Green', a reworked 'Summer Dress' and an encore of 'On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee', but it's the new songs that impress most; whether exploring a young man's blues on 'Sullen Mind', the dark side of bar room life on 'Roundabout', or reflecting on relationships on 'Funny Thing She Said', signs look good for that third album.
Walker is visibly thrilled to be accompanied by the legendary double bassist, with Thompson equally happy to be back out on the road. “Beats watching Flog It!” he deadpans. Amen to that!


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Us and Them - When I Was Walking / Green Couch (Ltd. 7")


Ultra rare 7” of modern day acid-folk!

Hot on the heels of their recent Sandy Denny tribute EP on Fruits de Mer, Us and Them release this brand new 7” on the equally fab label Mega Dodo Records. This time round they've featured two of their own songs – 'When I Was Walking' and 'Green Couch'. The Swedish duo don't disappoint. Soft, beautiful and timeless. Two tracks that could melt the iciest of hearts. As the world heads into the unknowable and unpredictable future it's comforting to have such stellar music. Check out the video for 'When I Was Walking' and lose yourself in its beguiling power.

It's a very limited release so if you want to get a copy don't hang about! Available as a limited edition of 150 green vinyl copies for Mega Dodo Singles Club members with another 150 copies on black vinyl for everyone else.


Click here for more on Us and Them.
Click here for Us and Them on Facebook.
Click here for Mega Dodo Records.

TRACKLISTING
When I Was Walking
Green Couch

The Orange Drop - Stoned In Love


Blissed out psych-rock from Philadelphia!


It's been a busy time recently at HDHQ, which means I haven't been able to post as often as I would have liked. With Christmas, work and family commitments, a couple of bouts of man-flu my little music blog has been a little neglected of late. But with a new year comes a new start, and a firm promise to myself that I'll make more time for writing. There's so much great music around at the moment. If I can help in some small way bring it just a little more recognition then it's well worth it. Which brings me to this fine record that came out in November last year. It's been a favourite on my listening pile for the last couple of months.
Not an album that you could easily pigeonhole into a recognisable genre (but hey, ain't they often the best?!), this sonically beautiful set of songs has elements of pop, shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and acid-rock yet is not restricted by any of these labels. The album opens with 'Juniper Pearl', sadness tempered with melody and marked out by the vocals which bear an uncanny likeness to those of a young Bobby Gillespie. 'The Curse Of Kukaku' features Dave Gilmour-esque gilded guitar which takes of into the space-rock stratosphere and into the track's hypnotic coda. Tasty!
'Make It Her, Forever' begins with a portentous eastern drone. Its use of quiet/loud dynamics and guitar tremolo. 'Julia Dream' is like a lost Lennon White Album out-take, with a slightly sinister nursery rhyme vibe to it. Simple but enhanced by trippy studio effects. That's it till the end of side one but there's plenty more sonic joys to be had – the dubby beats on 'Substance B', the funky bass and fuzz guitar of 'Hey Man' and the more garage-rock stylings on 'If You Feel It'. Fans of Spiritualized, Heron Oblivion, Ultra Vivid Scene and their ilk are well advised to seek this LP out.
The band are from Philadelphia. There seems to be a happening neo-psych scene there at the moment. You should also check out Shadow Band, who have more of an acid-folk bent rather than the new psych-rock sound of The Orange Drop. But it's interesting to note both bands are mining yesterday's sounds and making something new, vibrant, and very enjoyable. Go check 'em out!


Available on limited edition orange vinyl (250 copies) and CD.

The Orange Drop are -

Marc-Andre Basile – vocals, guitar
Anthony Bove – drums
Matt Calhoun – bass
Peter Stanko - guitar

Click here for more on The Orange Drop.
Click here for The Orange Drop on Facebook.
Click here for The Orange Drop on Twitter.
Click here for Mega Dodo Records.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Mojo Brothers - Don't Lie To Me/Marie Ann (7”)


Garage brudders debut 7” - OUT NOW!


Currently taking pride of place on my turntable is this stomping 7” from Mojo Brothers, a two-piece garage band outta Germany. While a claim to be the world's smallest garage band may be disputed by The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Cowbell et al, they may well be the loudest! And unlike The White Stripes they can truthfully claim to be siblings. In your face Jack White!
Raucous fuzzy soul is the order of the day on the single's A-side, all pounding beats, snarly guitar and the pair's trademark harmony vocals. Imagine if the Everly Brothers had been punk rockers and you get the idea. Flipside 'Marie Ann' taps into a more '50s rock 'n' roll vibe complete with mid-song guitar wig-out.
So how do they manage live as a two piece? Well the drums and organ sound all come from Roman's keyboard. Neat huh! Anyways check out the video for 'Don't Lie To Me' below and head over to their lablel website to order a copy of the vinyl. Rock on!

Mojo Brothers are -
Roman (Drums, Bass, Organ, Vocals)
Matthias (Guitar, Vocals)

Click here for Off Label Records.


MOJO BROTHERS - Don't lie to me from MOJO BROTHERS on Vimeo.

Us and Them - Fading Within The Dwindling Sun (10")


Swedish duo's tribute to Sandy Denny!

This coloured 10” vinyl is out now on Fruits de Mer Records. It's a five-track tribute to Sandy Denny featuring three Denny-penned tracks and two more songs she made her own. Anyone doubting that Us and Them can due justice to the music of Sandy Denny need only check out the 7” they released a couple of years back which contained a sterling cover of 'By The Time It Gets Dark'.

As we approach the solstice, the sun is dwindling it does indeed get dark early. I can't think of a better soundtrack for to accompany the midwinter stillness. My advice – avoid the High Street madness, do your shoppong online (from Fruits de Mer reputable mail order service), find a quiet spot and let this music take its effect. It's a perfect piece of wintry folk, and another jewel in the Fruits de Mer catalogue. Just right for those moments of quiet reflection, when you take stock of the preceeding year and charge your batteries for the next 12 months. Have a great solstice everyone.

TRACKLISTING
Winter Winds
Farewell, Farewell
Next Time Around
Banks Of The Nile
Take Away The Load

Click here for more on Us and Them.
Click here for Us and Them on Facebook.
Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.


The Karovas Milkshake - In The Shade Of The Purple Sun


(This review first appeared in issue 54 of Shindig! magazine)

In their home city of Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains, The Karovas Milkshake have concocted an aural love letter to '60s UK psychedelia that should appeal to fans of the original genre as well as those of its recent torchbearers (The Bees, The Coral, Temples et al.)
Standout track 'Purple Sun Of Glastonbury' is a seven and a half minute sitar-driven freakout which conjures images of rituals, standing stones and the dark spirit of Brian Jones, complete with a searing backwards guitar section.
Light relief comes via the Austin Powers-y pastiche of 'Zombie Wok' and the jaunty continental pop of 'Cryptique'. There's also room for some Bolan-ish folksy warble (Apple Pie) and Barrett-fronted jug band blues (Sugary Life).
It's all executed with a playfulness that raises it a notch above most time travelling psych-pop. Yekaterinburg may not share a ley line with Glastonbury but on this evidence you'd believe it could.


Click here for The Karovas Milkshake website. 
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake on Twitter. 
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake Facebook.  
Click here for The Karovas Milkshake Bandcamp.


Bananas Magazine - Issue #14


Latest issue of the coolest zine around! Garage, punk and psych inky available from all good stores & distros!

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a heinous beast of a year. Brexit, Trump, all those deaths and the murder of a forward-thinking, kind-hearted MP. A seismic year, the effects of which have yet to truly affect us. Where the hell do we go from here?! It's a point well made by editor Christophe in his column of the latest issue of Bananas Magazine. What we do need to do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and continue to stand up and fight for what we believe in. As a musical community, (especially one as uniquely small yet global, as the garage scene is), is to keep the "citizen of the world" ethos alive, despite what Theresa May and nativist politicians the world over want to do. Hey, maybe here's not the place for politics but I just wanted to get that off my chest and try and remain positive.

Anyhow, one bright spot at the tail end of the year is issue #14 of the best garage 'zine around, a timely reminder that there are still good people, good events and great bands. If Ian Dury was around today it would be one of his reasons to be cheerful. Packed as usual with interviews, reviews, awesome illustrations that'll have even the most rural dwellers hip to the scene. Grab a copy from your local store or distro, or via the mag's website. And also check out their latest online comp, (see embedded player below). A soundtrack for your New Year's Eve party. Here's to 2017, stay strong brothers and sisters!

http://bananas-magazine.com/


Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Beckies - The Beckies


(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

 
Hampered on its initial 1976 release by a refusal to tour and the feeling of it being a major label take on the new wave zeitgeist, this sole eponymous album has aged well. Marked by its warmth and pure joy of (power) pop, it may have been at odds with the prevailing AOR professionalism of the era but forty years on reveals itself as a lost gem.
Founding member of The Left Banke, Michael Brown had a genius knack for delicate melodies and classical influenced arrangements which sat well with the power pop brio of his newly found bandmates, who'd learned their craft in Chessmann Square, a journeyman group founded on a love of harmony-rich British Invasion bands.
The Beckies would turn out to be Brown's last release on a major label. This first time on CD reissue is a fitting tribute to the man, whose talents gave so much and deserved more in return.

Herbcraft - Wot Oz


(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

 
Experimental rock trio Herbcraft continue to make music that challenges and compels in equal measure. For their fourth LP band mainstay Matt Lajoie and new recruits Joe Lindsey and Aaron Neveu have released an improvised rehearsal tape where ambient dub rubs up against mutant-funk and Sister Ray style jams. From the primordial soundscape of 'We're Gonna Make It', into the focused art-rock of 'Fit Ur-Head', learn to expect the unexpected.
'Push Through The Veil' is an uncompromising take on Afro-funk with rolling bass, drum clatter and unhinged but murky vocal wailing, whereas 'No More Doors' is a more abstract, swampy affair, all voodoo drums and interplanetary guitar scales.
'Bread Don't Rise' is the closest track to traditional rock, albeit with undecipherable lyrics and primal scream delivery. If you're looking for music on rock's outer reaches, music that's devoid of cliché and unafraid of experimentation, here it is. One for the heads.


Click here for Herbcraft on Bandcamp.

The Green Pajamas - Death By Misadventure


(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

 
For a band with a back catalogue large enough to rival Grattan, (Sears if you're in the US), it's surprising that this Seattle-based group are not more widely known. Even more of a mystery given the strength of Jeff Kelly's songwriting on this vinyl reissue of their 2012 album. Though they may have strayed from the psych-pop/Paisley Underground roots of their DIY cassette releases of the mid '80s, their current brand of intelligent guitar-based pop for grown ups more than compensates.
The music veers from taut and muscular indie rock, through lilting piano ballads and McCartney-esque pop, to songs owing more to European gypsy music than they do Anglo-American rock. Despite such musical variations the album is held together by being a two part song-cycle that reveals depth and intrigue with each listen. If dark storytelling is not to your taste there's the upbeat 'Carrie', a true hit single in waiting.


The Sunchymes - Present...





(This review first appeared in issue 52 of Shindig! magazine)

 
The Sunchymes are a studio-based sunshine pop outfit from the distinctly unsunny environs of Northampton, and are a vehicle for the writing and arranging talents of auteur Aaron Hemmington. Their third album continues their ever more assured line in harpsichord and harmony laced soft-psych. Packed with Brian Wilson-esque melodies, chamber-pop arrangements and lyrics about parks, carousels and daydreaming, it makes for a pleasant, knowingly lightweight listen. The use of Mellotron strings and subtle phasing give the album a gently disorientating twist, though it's more psych that's safe for children than the full on lysergic experience.
'Time Will Tell' is typical of the fayre; breezy, upbeat and sugary. Despite lacking that killer song the album does a fine job in recreating a certain period charm and finely straddles the line between soft psychedelia and bubblegum. Abandon your alphabetical filing and stash this one between The Beach Boys' Friends and The Banana Splits LP.


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

French Boutik – Front Pop


Parisian nova-mods' full length debut oozes style and sophistication!


We've covered French Boutik here before of course, and delighted in their previous standalone vinyl releases – Les Chats De Gouttiere 7” and Ici Paris 2x7”. Now stripped to a lean and mean quartet they've just released their debut long-player which more than lives up to expectations. No great game changing moves but there's a definite distillation and honing here, along with a growth in confidence.
With the boy/girl vocals and split between French and English language songs French Boutik bring style and sophistication to the fore. Their previous releases hinted at a band capable of a range of moods and styles. Over ten new original tracks and a neat version of Francoise Hardy's 'Je Ne Suis Pas La Pour Personne' the band get to show them in full
They describe their sound as Pop Moderniste and that's about right. Rooted in '60s soul and mod but with a nod to The Style Council and a touch of acid-jazz here and there (check out the flute solo on 'Hitch A Ride'). Factor in a little bossa nova, some louge-core within that musical melting pop you'll find French Boutik. Step in and enjoy!


Click here for French Boutik on Facebook.
Click here for French Boutik on Twitter.
Click here for Copase Disques.
Click here for Detour Records.

Icarus Peel - Forget-Me-Not Under Pussy Willow


Conceptual village wyrdness among the rolling hills!


A concept album about an undertaker and a gang of London villains set in a village between the Cotswolds and Milton Keynes! Yep you heard right. The leader of The Honey Pot and musical collaborator with Harmonic Distortion favourite Crystal Jacqueline has concocted a song suite set in a fictional English village. A seemingly normal world but scratch beneath the surface and the strangeness of old Albion soon reveals itself. Packed from start to finish with the sort of pastoral eccentricity that went out of fashion when Mr. Barrett retreated to suburban Cambridge, this album was apparently written as a bet. The nature of that bet may not be known but the resulting LP means everyone wins.
No-one would make the claim for Icarus Peel as being a great singer, his voice more suited to teaching geography than selling a song but that matters not and indeed is almost the point, with the songs all delivered in a straight, English folk story-over-style manner. Shifting between gentle psychedelia, acoustic ballads and soft spacey rock, this is a strange album for an even stranger year and a great tonic when the real world's ugliness is too much.


Available on limited edition black vinyl (250 copies) and as a 4 CD set housed in a handmade individually numbered wooden box.

Click here for Icarus Peel on Facebook.
Click here for Mega Dodo Records.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Oriental Sunshine - Dedicated To The Bird We Love

Deluxe reissue out 2nd December on Round 2 Records 

 

The long and winding countryside of Norway in the late sixties was hardly the ideal time or place to be playing psychedelic folk music. But the teenage duo of Nina Johansen and Rune Walle, aided by their friend Satnam Singh, triumphed over high odds to make one of the most spellbinding albums in the genre made in any country.

Johansen and Walle met at a Peoples College in 1968 in the rainy small town Manger outside of Bergen, and discovered a shared love of The Beatles, Joni Mitchell and eastern sounds. They soon started playing and writing songs together. Then they met Satnam Singh, one of the very few people of colour living in Norway at the time, and luckily he turned out to be an excellent flute and tabla player. It was meant to be — Oriental Sunshine was formed.

A sole album was made, released on Philips in 1970, with the trio joined by accomplished jazz musicians Espen Rud (Min Bul), Sture Janson, and Helge Grøslie (Junipher Greene). The album was recorded by the legendary Norwegian producer and recording technician Jan Erik Kongshaug. After the death of Johansen’s father and with Satnam Singh facing deportation the band lost contact for 35 years and no music has been produced by the group since. This truly is a one off, and a key, unique record in Norway’s psych history.

Round 2 are proud to present this long out of print rarity, with remastered audio, exclusive poster and liner notes by Richard Morton Jack.

Tracklisting:

Side A
Across Your Life
Mother Nature
Look At Me
Unless
Land of Wisdom
Let It Be My Birth

Side B
Can Anybody Tell?
Visions
My Way To Be Hurt
Where You Went (Tum Kahan Gaye)
I’m Going