Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Thanes – She's Coming Back To Me (7")

Scottish beat 'n' folk. Part four in State Records' Soundgate Sound Acetate series.

Edinburgh's garage-folk overlords The Thanes break with tradition on the fourth instalment in State Records' Sandgate Sound Acetate series, being as the single was recorded at the band's own Ravencraig studio as opposed to State's own Sandgate Studio. It's no less satisfying however with the A-side being an original composition. She's Coming Back To Me is a stomping slice of biting 12-sting fuzz and Jagger-ish snarl, with a vocal plea that sounds simultaneously hopeful yet worried that things might not actually work out.

The B-side is a poignantly dedicated to George Gallacher, lead vocalist and songwriter with '60s beat legends The Poets who sadly passed away in August 2012. Here The Thanes cover Love Is Fading Away, a track originally recorded by The Poets back in 1965, but which remained unavailable for three decades. An altogether gentler affair to the A-side, its arpeggio jangle underpinning a more reflective and resigned take on love's passing and non-true course. Good stuff!

Limited to 500 copies on heavy vinyl with hand-stamped sleeve.

Click here for the State Records website.

Various – Shrunken Head Music (Double 7")

Krautrock, kosmiche and prog alert! Explore some inner space with this limited double 7” white vinyl!

More usually associated with the long-playing record, such genres as krautrock and progressive rock sit remarkably well on this double 7” single. As is customary with Fruits De Mer Records it's a selection of covers given over to modern make-overs. This double single opens with Frobisher Neck covering Brainticket's To Another Universe. Made with just a a Mellotron, it's impressive stuff, setting the tone of exploratory repetitiveness that characterises the rest of the EP.

Black Tempest bravely have a stab at Tangerine Dream's Rubycon Part 1, reining it in at five and half minutes in length. It works though, meditative drone giving way to motorik drive, all the while oscillating nicely.

Vespero show they're equally adept at covering Faust as they are Pink Floyd with their version of J'ai Mal Aux Dents. Repetitively hypnotic with conscious expanding guitar explorations and random vocal declarations. It's seven and a half minutes of driving band dynamics, with not a blues scale in sight.

Jay Tausig rounds the EP off with a version of Gong's The Glorious Om Riff. The opening vocal mantra giving way to the EP's most rockist track, with panned guitar breaks, synthesized sonics, and Coltrane-esque squally saxophone lines, all held together by a solid rhythm section. Get in! A truly satisfying collection, this may just be the pick of the crop in Fruit De Mer's current batch of 7” releases.

1 – Frobisher Neck – To Another Universe (originally by Brainticket)
2 – Black Tempest – Rubycon Part 1 (Tangerine Dream)
3 – Vespero – J'ai Mal Aux Dents (Faust)
4 – Jay Tausig – The Glorious Om Riff (Gong)

Click here for more on Frobisher Neck.
Click here for more on Black Tempest.
Click here for more on Vespero.
Click here for more on Jay Tausig.
Click here for the Fruit De Mer Records website.

Vibravoid – Colour Your Mind

Dusseldorf trio covers rare psych. Limited orange vinyl 7” with gatefold sleeve.

Fruits De Mer records are market leaders in applying modern production values to covers of rare psych. OK, maybe that market is small and niche, but the point I'm trying to make is they do it well. This latest release is a case in point.

Cult psych-rockers Vibravoid have dug deep into the crates for this release, selecting a globe-spanning selection of tracks to cover. Australia, France and the US west-coast are all represented by the original artists, those being Tyrnaround, Michael Polnareff and Human Expression respectively. Although all three tracks have been previously available on CD, they've been given a fresh mix for their debut appearance on vinyl.

Kicking things off with Tyrnaround's Colour Your Mind, all spiky guitar and descending Farfisa lines. The track's melodic debt to Syd Barrett is well evidenced but it's the improvised wig-out section where Vibravoid make the the track their own. La Poupee Qui Non Fait is a more innocent poppy affair, though darkened with a fair amount of studio sonics.

The Human Expression were a Los Angeles band in the heady days of 1966 through to 1967. Their song Optical Sound is acidic Sunset Strip incarnate, covered here with a suitably hazy yet sinister feel. The dark flipside to flower power's innocent dream. All in all this is a great little EP that'll leave you wanting to hear more from Vibravoid. Good that there's more available on the band's own Stoned Karma label.

1 – Colour Your Mind (originally by Tyrnaround)
2 – La Poupee Qui Fait Non (by Michael Polnareff)
3 – Optical Sound (by Human Expression)

Click here for more on Vibravoid.
Click here for the Fruits De Mer website.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Various - The Fruits de Mer 2014 Annual

Three bands, five tracks! Fruits De Mer Records find a home for the weird and wonderful. Limited 7” colour vinyl pressing with tracks from Astralasia, The Raiders and The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies.

A marvellously eclectic bag which somehow holds together, this shared 7” opens with a spirited surf-guitar version of the Joe 90 theme tune, performed by the oddly monikered Blue Giant Zeta Puppies. The band also put their souped-up-surf stamp on John William's Lost In Space. Fans of Man Or Astroman will no doubt approve.

Astralasia is a band I never thought I'd see appear on a Fruits De Mer record. The long-serving trance and dub specialists have turned in a version of Johnny Remember Me complete with a Lee Marvin-esque deep vocal. The song was originally a hit for John Leyton and was Joe Meek's first number one record. Here the band have brought the song kicking and screaming into the modern age yet kept that eerie otherworld quality that made it a special song in the first place.

Joe Meek is also a name that springs to mind on hearing The Raiders track on this compilation single. I Remember is an unreleased instrumental from 1964, and features a guitarist called Trevor Midgley AKA Beau, who went on to release albums on John Peel's Dandelion label. Why the track was unreleased is a mystery as it's a real gem. Perhaps its haunting and eerie Meeks-meets-David-Lynch quality was too much for folks back in the pre-England swings era. Anyway it's available here now so check it out.

The best is saved for last though with Astralasia's Johnny In Dub. A heavy skanking dub mix of Johnny Remember Me. Again, even with Fruits De Mer testing the time limits of a 7” single there still enough deep groove on this record to carry the room-shaking bass-line. Nice!

1 – The Giant Blue Zeta Puppies – Joe 90 Theme
2 – Astralasia – Johnny Remember Me
3 – The Giant Blue Zeta Puppies – Lost In Space
4 – The Raiders – I Remember
5 – Astralasia – Johnny In Dub

Click here for The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies on Facebook.
Click here for the Astralasia website.
Click here for the Fruits De Mer website.

Vespero – Careful With That Axe, Eugene

Russian psych-prog band's salute to Pink Floyd on 7” coloured vinyl with double sided poster.

Although Vespero have appeared on the Fruits De Mer releases before, this is the band's first stand-alone single for the label, and one with which they've chosen to pay tribute to psychedelic and progressive godfathers (The) Pink Floyd.

The two instrumental covers will be familiar to all Pink Floyd fans out there, A-side being Vespero's version of the early PF classic, Careful With That Axe Eugene, with B-side One Of These Days, the opening track from 1971's Meddle.

Pink Floyd fans can be notoriously sniffy about others tackling the band's tracks (unless they're Australian and ape them note for note), but even the grumpiest PF enthusiast would be hard pushed not to like this single. Still recognisable as Floyd tracks but with a band feel and dynamic that's all Vespero's. No mean feat.

With both tracks approaching the eight-minute mark, this single tests the limits of the 7” format in a very satisfying way. Careful with that lathe, record cutting man!

1 – Careful With That Axe, Eugene
2 – One Of These Days

Click here for Vespero on Facebook.
Click here for the Fruits De Mer website.

Mark McDowell + Octopus Syng - The Regal Crabomophone 2014 Annual

Mark McDowell and Octopus Syng go head to head on a split single of neo-psych. Limited 7” colour vinyl pressing with free poster.

The Regal Crabomophone record label is an offshoot of Fruits De Records which specialises in original material.

Mark McDowell is a Breton shirted, modern-day minstrel with an impressive line in soft baroque psych-pop. His track on this single, entitled Girls Of Belvoir, tells of 17th century witchcraft at a castle in Leicestershire. You don't get that on X-Factor! Folksy and enchanting but with a slightly sinister edge, it's Witchfinder General scored by Vaughan Williams, unsettling and very English.

Finland's Octopus Syng grace the flipside with their eight minute opus Listen With The Moths. Similarly disturbing yet with more of an acid-folk feel, the track builds with its simple guitar motif and drum rolls joined by breathy in-your-ear vocals. The track grows and swells up to its guitar solo climax. “Listen with moths, to take you back home” they sing over and over. Whether this is the best or worst advice for surviving an LSD trip I can't tell you, but it works well enough while drinking a cup of tea.

1 – Mark McDowell – Girls Of Belvoir
2 – Octopus Syng – Listen With The Moths

Click here for Mark McDowell on Reverb Nation.
Click here for Octopus Syng on Facebook.
Click here for the Fruits De Mer Records website.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sasquatch - IV

Fourth album of big-footed stoner metal from LA's premier power trio.

It's a bold act that decides to release albums in a numbered sequence. Those big name acts that have done it previously seem to have pulled it off though; Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and Scott Walker have all put out firm musical statements that more than justify those heavy Roman numerals.

Now here come Sasquatch, heaviest of the heavy with IV, an album which bludgeons the listener from start to finish with supercharged, propulsive rock. Drawing from the best of the past – acts such as Grand Funk, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath, the '90s North-west grunge scene, as well as their contemporaries on the stoner and doom scenes, Sasquatch have once again come up with the goods.

Opening with straight-ahead rocker The Message, the album then broadens out to reveal plenty of surprises. There's the circular, descending riff of Eye Of The Storm with its mystical, loaded lyrical references to white horses and seventh moons; The devilish tritone interval used to full effect on Smoke Signal; the blues-rock overdrive mode achieved on Me And You, as well as the classic rock-isms on Corner.

Alongside the album's metallic roots there's the odd notable influence of the last 10 years of electrified country blues. Check out the bluesy riffing on Sweet Lady which bears a likeness to The Black Key's I Got Mine, complete with its Jack White-esque, octave-leaping guitar break. Mostly they sound utterly like themselves though. Four album's in for a band that show no sign of running out of steam or ideas. Long may they rock.

Click here for more on Sasquatch.

Schnauser - Where Business Meets Fashion

Bristolian Prog-poppers' third album!

Prog-influenced music gets a raw deal. Not aided by the fact that in the mid '70s the genre became overblown and bloated, characterised by extended solos, costume changes, money-losing stage designs and even an ice-rink! However its main crime was that it took itself too seriously.

Thirty years on, here's Schnauser, a Bristolian quartet whose music claws back some credibility for all things Prog, as well injecting it with a welcome sense of humour and fun. Though they might have passed under your radar before, this is actually the band's third album, their first since 2010's The Sound Of Meat.

With witty and knowing songwriting which covers such subjects as the hapless love-life of early computer gamers (Good Looking Boy, which comes complete with the sound of a Spetrum ZX81 loading from a cassette), tedious and predictable conversations (Dinner Party), and uncomfortable social situations (Large Groups Of Men), the band mine a reach seam of modern suburban anxiety. It's like Abigail's Party re-imagined as a concept album and performed by Kevin Ayers.

The Prog tag actually does Schnauser a dis-service. This is Pop music! Pop in the best possible sense, in that it's equally indebted to melodic masters as Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson as it is to Prog virtuoso musicians. Catchy, purposeful, subversive and fun. For each prog-rock twist, turn and trapping there's an equally attuned ear for melody. And despite the album's title it's neither business-like or slavishly fashionable and is all the better for that.