Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Prana Crafter - MindStreamBlessing


Mindful and meditative music from the Washington woodlands.


I've written before about the American musician William Sol, who musical nom-de-plume is Prana Crafter. His previous LP Rupture of Planes (on US label Deep Water Acres) mixed UK acid-folk with textural soundscapes to great effect. MindStreamBlessing, Sol's latest LP, freshly released on Eiderdown Records doesn't give away its influences as much but that's no bad thing. The finger-picked guitar is still there as are the electric flights of fancy but this time round the inspiration comes from deep within his own range of emotions.

Using a simple palette of guitar, drums and organ the music has a timeless, elemental quality, inspired by nature and vistas and the feeling of being far from the madding crowd. Fans of the much-missed Windham Hill label will feel an affinity with the music here. This six song LP is the perfect soundtrack for insomniac nights and the stillness and of early mornings. Don't expect hooks, riffs or gimmicks, but do expect subtle, slow-burning pieces that given time will have a deeper, longer lasting satisfaction. A fine example of solitary yet subtly cosmic Americana.


Released on digital download or as a limited edition cassette (100 copies only).

Click here for Prana Crafter on Twitter.
Click here for Eiderdown Records.

Kris Gietkowski - songs from the first LP by Egg

Polish muti-instrumentalist releases a bizarre but lovely labour of love!


I have to admit I'm not that familiar with the first LP by Egg, being still in nappies when it was released. My earliest musical memories coming a few years later and limited to the glam pop and tartan-clad boy bands prevalent on AM radio at the time. Anyway thanks to the powers of the Internet I've learnt that Egg were a three-piece prog band who signed to Decca in 1969 and released and eponymous debut LP a year later.

Fast forward 47 years and in a bizarre labour of love, Polish multi-instrumentalist Kris Gietkowski has decided to record a full length LP featuring most of the songs from Egg's first LP. Notice that that's most and not all, as the press release explains - “it's only 'most of' as one of the tracks would have taken him months to learn and he didn't fancy the ten second intro track on the original album.”

Reading that I knew I'd just love this LP, regardless of how it sounded. But anyway it sounds pretty good. A fully instumental album full of jazz-prog organ fugues, proto math-rock and quasi-classical passages in what I'm led to believe is a fairly faithful replica of the original LP. And it comes as a colour-in-colour vinyl LP, yellow in white to look like a poached egg. How can any self-respecting vinyl freak not dig that right!?!


Released as a colour-in-colour vinyl LP on April 17th. (300 copies only)

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.



Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals - The Volga Sturgeon Face EP


Soft Hearted Scientists' frontman releases solo EP.

It's difficult to think of a contemporary band as prolifically good as Soft Hearted Scientists. After seven LPs (and nary a bad one among them) the band are taking a year out to re-charge their collective battery. That's not to say they won't be making music. Frontman Nathan Hall has already enlisted a bunch of pals to back him on his debut solo EP. Ladies and gentleman say hello to Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals.

Fans of SHS will not be disappointed, this new outfit ploughs a similar furrow. The same astute, subversive worldview that characterised the best work of the SHS is present throughout this four song Extended Play. Wide ranging references, with equal portions of absudities and insights have always been hallmarks of Hall's work and here is no exception. But there's always a point to be made, be it with lyrics intent of taking revenge on the perpetrators of genocide, lamenting the passing of time or anaylising existencial crises. Clever stuff. No slouch with the music and textures either. Gentle neo-psych one minute, baroque pop the next before bursting out some ideas-packed prog the next. Neat work.

Tracklisting
Everybody's Burning Effigies
Songs For The Flowers
Like A Setting Sun
Catacombs Of Camden Town

Click here for Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals on Facebook.
Click here for more on Soft Hearted Scientists.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Interview with Emm Smith (Stereo Moon)


(This feature first appeared in issue 62 of Shindig! magazine. For the full unpublished interview with Emm Smith click over the jump at the bottom of this post. Photo by Mat Manser.)
 
Canadian sonic adventurers go back to the future and top up their studio tans with Duncan Fletcher.

Ultimately I want to trip out like when you're dreaming, which can be the most amazing journey. Jumping from one adventure to another, seeing things appear in multiple places or configurations. Using the recording studio as an instrument. A Jerry Garcia quote says it best - 'mixing it for the hallucinations'” So says Stereo Moon mainman Emm Smith talking about modular recording, the technique pioneered by Brian Wilson on 'Good Vibrations' and SMiLE, and also utilised on Stereo Moon's latest outing, The Shape Of Psych To Come EP. Over its four tracks the band pick up the psych baton that was dropped by mainstream musicians in the late '60s. “I think in a Brian Wilson interview from that time he mentions the future of music being psychedelic and it doesn't happen. That future is a lie to some.”

Aside from the tightly arranged psych-pop of lead track 'Requiem For The Non-Believers', the band get to stretch out with free-form jamming and studio experimentation on the EP's instrumental tracks. They've also been obsessively re-working a debut LP, Smoking Shake By The Riverside, which should be ready for mixing next year. “There's a lyric in one of the songs that says, 'I've been driving myself insane but I wouldn't have it any other fucking way'. There's everything from pedal steel to horns, strings, double bass, organ, piano, banjo. I was laid-off from work in 2015 so production has slowed down. It costs money to rent a vibraphone for example, the next thing to get excited about! All the exotic instrumentation can be hard to find, or even people who can play them!”

Live shows are a less disciplined affair. Says Emm, “Live I’m going for more of a noisy Velvet Underground sound with psychedelic organ. For me the VU and The Beach Boys are the two ends of the spectrum I want to explore.”


Click here for Stereo Moon on Twitter.



Muscle - Muscle


Debut LP of quirky garage rock from Toulouse-based quartet.


One of the more interesting bands to have come into my orbit recently is Muscle. Mixing garage rock with hi-octane post-punk, their sound is quirky, off-kilter and full of enough interesting little twists, turns and additions to raise a smile from even the most jaded garage-head. The band formed in 2015 in Toulouse, France and contains members of Gaz Gaz, Crank!, Dividers and Liminanas.

Their quirky punk sound topped off with sharp, acerbic lyrics is a real tonic in troubled times. The've recently toured France, Switzerland and Belgium. Hopefully they'll make it over the Channel sometime but if you can't wait why not head across to France yourself? Muscle play the Binic Folk Blues Festival in Northwest France in July. A festival on a beach is as good an excuse as any for a cross-channel trip. Even more so if Muscle are playing! Have a listen to their eponymous LP below.

Out now on limited edition vinyl LP, CD, cassette or digital download.

Click here for Muscle on Bandcamp.
Click here for Muscle on Facebook.
Click here for more on Binic Folk Blues Festival.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bendith - Bendith


(This review first appeared in issue 61 of Shindig! magazine.)

 
Agati CD

Top session guitarist and Colorama mainman Carwyn Ellis teams up with family harmonists Plu for this short but charming suite of Welsh language folk. Bendith means blessing in Welsh, a fitting title for a band and album that pays homage to family and fond childhood memories of time spent in Carmarthenshire. This is most notable on lead single 'Dannybanc', named after the home of Ellis' grandparents.

This firmly-rooted sense of place permeates the album with the sparse, subtle arrangements and acoustic instrumentation allowing the Plu siblings' voices to take centre stage. Elan, Marged and Gwilym Rhys' three-part harmonies are haunting, beautiful and mysterious, helping make the album into the perfect Sunday morning soundtrack

Minimalist and easy on the ear, this delightful modern folk will be of particular interest to those resident in west Wales, but will resonate further afield with anyone with open ears willing to give it a chance.

EZTV - High In Place


(This review was written for issue 61 of Shindig! magazine. They didn't use it due to lack of space so it's appearing here.)

Captured Tracks CD / LP

City-dwelling anxiety and problems caused by gentrification are explored on the band's 2nd LP. The world-weary lyrics against a backdrop of breezy 12-string guitars provides a happy/sad dynamic akin to glimpsing the sun through an imposing skyscraper skyline. It's this feeling that binds and runs through the whole album.

With their harmony drenched guitar pop, EZTV may be the natural heirs to Teenage Fanclub, bringing melodic, slightly melancholic jangle to a new generation. But for all their inspiration from the janglers of yore - The Byrds, Big Star, The Feelies et al, the New York-based trio still manage to sound like a band for now, one for today's indie-kids to claim as their own.

Guest appearances from Jenny Lewis, Chris Cohen and members of Real Estate and Quilt give the album a contemporary indie shimmer, as does the crystal clear self-production and Ezra Tenenbaum's wistful vocals. Big city loneliness has rarely sounded so good.


Jim Lea - Therapy


(This review first appeared in issue 61 of Shindig! magazine.)


Wienerworld CD

As the musical half of one of the UK's most successful songwriting partnerships it's no surprise the former Slade bassist's 2007 “midlife” album displayed his prodigious talents, with Lea playing almost every instrument on the record. For an album composed and recorded while Lea undertook a psychology course, what could have been an indulgent album, full of introspective navel-gazing, is actually a blast. Despite the preoccupation with self-exploration the album is full of brash and ballsy songs, with hooks and killer choruses aplenty. It seems the man cannot help writing belting pop-rock tunes, and can also knock out a pretty decent piano ballad ('Smile Of Elvis').

Reissued here with extra tracks and a bonus disc of a rare 2002 gig performed with a hastily assembled rhythm section “for the existential buzz”. Tearing through an incendiary covers-heavy set, the self-confessed “miserable one” from Slade sounds like he's having fun. Revelatory and immensely enjoyable.

Psychedelic Confessions of a Primal Screamer: The Tambourine years 1984-87 (Martin St. John)


(This review first appeared in issue 61 of Shindig! magazine.)


MARTIN ST. JOHN
Psychedelic Confessions of a Primal Screamer: The Tambourine years 1984-87
Self Published

Martin St. John AKA Joogs was the tambourine player in earliest line-up of Primal Scream, shared front of stage with Bobby Gillespie and helped shape the band's early musical and sartorial aesthetic. The mid-'80s Primals were of course a different band to the dance 'n' dub informed outfit they would eventually become. With his obvious fondness for the era, and a keen recall of detail St. John takes us back to the heady garage punk and jangle years. Although not a musician as such, his taste became central to the band's early style when their primary influences were the Velvet Underground and a raft of '60s garage bands, informed in part by the emergence of reissue labels.

The occasional spelling mistake and typo is more than compensated for by St. John's enthusiastic fanzine-style writing and with cameos from The Jesus & Mary Chain, Alan McGee, Julian Cope and The Cramps, it's a real heady blast.

Things began to fragment almost before the ink was dry on the band's first major label deal, and with Machiavellian machinations St. John became sidelined and surplus to requirement, but not before having shared acid trips, van crashes, airport cavity seaches and recording sessions for an aborted version of Sonic Flower Groove.

The Primals would of course go on to bigger things but as everyone who's been in a band knows there's no substitute for those early character-forming years when the camaraderie is high, along with the sense of possibility. Let's hear it for the tamby man!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Interview with Tobia Poltronieri (C+C=Maxigross)

(This feature first appeared in issue 60 of Shindig! magazine. For the full unedited interview click over the jump at the bottom of this post.)

Duncan Fletcher talks with Tobia Poltronieri, founding member of Italian psych-collective C+C=Maxigross, about their new album and self-curated festival.


Since we were kids we organised illegal parties in the hills, in basements and in the mountains… After many years we decided to do our real thing, Lessinia Psych Fest was born in 2014 in a garden of a friend's house in the mountains. Jennifer Gentle and Miles Cooper Seaton from Akron/Family were the headliners. We met Miles at that festival, he was touring Italy by himself at the time. Now he lives in Verona with us… Just to make you understand that the vibe here is REALLY GOOD!… Finally the festival is growing! Next year you’re invited, and your readers too!”

Anyone craving a unique boutique festival experience is advised to accept this invitation from Tobia Poltronieri, founding member of C+C=Maxigross, an ever mutating collective who organise their own festival each July in the mountains near Verona. The band (whose name is taken from a local cash and carry) have a sound that mixes the organic mushroomy goodness of the early '70s, with the playful wide-eyed wonder of contemporaries such as The Flaming Lips, Devendra Banhart and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Their willingness to experiment and improvise, coupled with state-of-the-art pop production marks them out as standard bearers for 21st century freak-folk.

Their recently released 2nd LP Fluttarn is titled in Cimbrian, an arcane local language found only in the Lessinia hills. Fluttarn translates as "to flutter, to fly about or fly away". “For us Lessinia is pure magic and mystery”, say Tobia, “and one of these strange sides is this ancient and almost dead language, “Cimbro”, from the German people who came here in the Middle Ages. Sadly almost nobody’s talking in this language today.”

The language may be in danger but the beauty of their homeland remains a more permanent inspiration - “Only people from Verona go there… sad cos it's definitely worth a look! These mountains are amazing, gentle pre-Alps, wonderful and magic! This place has been the shelter for our relaxation and creativity, where to go when we want to escape the city and its hustle and bustle. With our label, Vaggimal records, we started to record other bands in our studio in the mountains, we spent a lot of time there, creating and exploring music, letting the good vibes take over.”

Aside from the hills the band cite their prime influence as Os Mutantes, one that extends beyond music - “Their music is amazing! Crazy, free, colourful, unexpected, melodic and groovy. Our vibes! But also the context where they grew up: a nation under a dictator, far from the Anglo-American scene they loved (from Haight-Ashbury to Swingin’ London, you know better than me)... Starting from Brazil, they created their own world, so strong and unique that still now has lots to say. It’s the thing we like to do: mix cultures and inspirations to create something new. I mean, we’re a free form band from the north of Italy, singing in English, playing crazy psych vibes and always travelling Europe with different musicians and artists... At least we try to do our thing! Then we will see... Bat Macumba!”


Fluttarn is out now on Trovarobato/Vaggimal Records.

Mike Love - Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy


(This review first appeared in issue 60 of Shindig! magazine)

Faber & Faber
More villain than hero. That's how the world views Mike Love in the pantomime story of The Beach Boys. This book attempts to set the record straight, with Love placing the biggest blame for the band's fractious nature on the Wilson brothers' father Murry, a control freak whose bad management decisions would haunt the band over the ensuing decades.

He's equally candid about his own shortcomings, with evidence of his contradictory personality throughout; the most business-minded Beach Boy, but one with an interest in meditation and astrology; a clean-living, drug-free vegetarian with anger issues; a serial womaniser who won't live with a woman outside of marriage. As self-appointed “road-dog” Love has worked harder than anyone in the band to keep their stock high, a role he claims he was forced to take after missing out on songwriting credits and losing rights to the back catalogue. (Murry Wilson again!).

Aside from the score settling, all the juicy stuff is here – making Pet Sounds and SMiLE, lawsuits, tour punch-ups, Maharishi, Eugene Landy and Charlie Manson. Love may never win a popularity contest when up against Team Brian, but he's good company and disarmingly gracious when it comes to his extended family of bandmates, complimenting all three Wilson brothers, and expressing palpable sadness over Brian's mental decline and the deaths of Dennis and Carl.

As rock's most dysfunctional family band, The Beach Boys' story is one we'll never tire of, and from this angle it's less black and white than some observers would have us believe.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sendelica/Superfjord - Zappa (Ltd. colour 7")


Welsh spacerockers and Finnish psychedelic jazzers take a side each on this 7” tribute to Frank!

Frank Zappa was a musician with a devoted following, one that shows no sign of weakening almost a quarter of a century after his death. With that in mind it's a brave move to cover an artist that many would think uncoverable. Purely from a technical point of view this is not for the faint hearted. And who would want to upset those fervent Zappaphiles?!

Welsh spacerockers Sendelica and Finland's Superfjord have stepped up to the proverbial plate, each taking a side each of this limited edition 7” to give their spin on a couple of Frank's most iconic compositions.

Superfjord's version of 'Peaches En Regalia' keeps the originals sense of fun, ups the acid-rock ante and adds an additional jammed out section. It's also has one hell of a funky bassline. Sendelica opt to tackle 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow', beginning with a spaced out ethereal section that segues into a heavier riff-based part which has an almost glam-rock feel, making full use of two drummers.

As they say in football parlance this two-tracker is a game of two halves. Difficult to pick a winner as they're both enjoyable. And hey, music ain't no competition after all, it's a collaborative labour of love. Another winning combination from Fruits de Mer.

Tracklisting
Superfjord – 'Peaches En Regalia'
Sendelica – 'Don't Eat The yellow Snow'

Released as a limited edition colour vinyl 7” on April 17th.

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.
Click here for Sendelica.
Click here for Superfjord.


Judy Collins - In My Life / Wildflowers / Whales & Nightingales


(This review first appeared in issue 60 of Shindig! magazine.)

BGO CD
This three album compilation, remastered and repackaged as a 2CD set, covers the years 1967-1971 and showcases Collins' transformation from collegiate folk-boom survivor into baroque-folk interpreter of the great contemporary songbook. Most of the tracks here are drawn from songwriting heavyweights; Dylan, Cohen, Baez, Seeger, Newman, Mitchell, The Beatles and Donovan all get a look in, along with Brel, Brecht and Behan. Collins' self-penned songs and her take on traditional tunes hold their own however, finely balanced between introspection and melodrama.

In My Life is artistically the most successful in part due to its reliance on big songs. Wildflowers is more idiosyncratic and beguiling, in many ways a braver statement. Whales & Nightingales is notable for the hit single 'Amazing Grace', a partial return to traditional folk material and the album's environmental themes as shown on whaling song 'Farewell To Tarwathie' which features the recording of a humpback whale as backing.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Brinsley Schwarz - It's All Over Now


Over forty years on the pub-rockers' shelved US breakthrough album finally gets released!


Brinsley Schwarz started work on this LP at Rockfield Studios at the tail end of 1974, drafting in producer Steve Verroca to give their sound a more commercial sheen. The band had hoped it would be the record that helped them break through to a wider audience in America. It wasn't to be. The band's soulful rock and earnest, accomplished musicianship were about to be upstaged by punk's need for a clean slate. That aside they also felt they had run their course and were on the verge of breaking up. And break up they did, in search of fresh musical challenges. The tapes sat gathering proverbial dust until guitarist Ian Gomm needed some two-inch tape to test out a new studio he was helping build. Remembering the shelved album he was able to rescue the tape days before it would have ended up in a skip.

A few years ago Gomm made a few handmade CDRs available via his website but now the record is getting it's first full commercial release on Mega Dodo Records. So how does it sound over forty years after its intended release? Pretty good I have to say! There a some great songs on this record - 'Cruel To Be Kind' (later a solo hit for Nick Lowe), an ace version of 'Private Number' and a reggae version of 'It's All Over Now' (better than it sounds on paper/screen, trust me!)

There's still over a month till this album hits the shops but a quick look at the Mega Dodo Records' online shop tells me the vinyl has all gone on pre-order. One for Discogs then if you want a copy, or sign up to Mega Dodo's mailing list for news of any re-presses. Also available on CD and very limited cassette.

Click here for Mega Dodo Records.


The Higher State – Your Casting Doubt (Ltd. 7”)


Latest single from Kent garage-heads! 300 copies only!


The Higher State's LP from last year, the misleadingly titled Volume 27 was a winner for those of us who like their music with a distincly '60s hue. The three man line-up that made the album are back with a new 7”, limited to only 300 copies.

A-side 'Your Casting Doubt' has the same musical DNA as Volume 27 – plenty of fuzz guitar, authentic trebly production, and that Yanks-copying-Brits-copying-Yanks vibe that was all the rage back in '66. Wait a minute, these are Brits-copying-Yanks-copying-Brits-copying-Yanks! Get your hear round that folks!!

Anyway let's not get bogged down in the ethnology, suffice to say that it sounds great. Flipside 'X-Ray Day' tells a worrying tale of a hospital visit/nuclear dread delivered with charmingly lazy, nasal vocals. Neat!

If you want a copy, 100 come in a folded over sleeve (available via the band's own Bandcamppage), with the other 200 regular copies available from Market SquareRecords. Get ordering doods!


Click here for The Higher State.
Click here for Market Square Records.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Aussie acid-folkers Trappist Afterland announce UK and European dates


Trappist Afterland head over to the northern hemisphere soon for a string of gigs, including support slots with Wolf People and Trembling Bells. Well worth getting along to!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Fay Hallam - House of Now


(This review first appeared in issue 60 of Shindig! magazine.)

Well Suspect CD / LP
Aided by acid-jazz supremo Andy Lewis (Pimlico, Paul Weller etc.) in the producer's chair, Hallam's latest album holds on to her modernist Hammond-groove roots but reaches new conceptual heights. Thirteen tracks, loosely held together by themes of spirituality and an unspoken religiosity, they sound like they belong to a early '70s counterculture inspired musical. Hallam and her assembled band are on killer form with a sound that's somewhere between Julie Driscoll's psych-infused R&B and the big-hearted orchestral soul of Marta Kubišová. The Medway modette still has it.

Further sonic territory is explored via the spacey soul-searching of 'Fragment', the Robert Kirby style strings on 'Heart Cries Out' and the lover's lament of 'Colours'. Though for the most part finger-snapping soul beats brush up against Latino-funk on an album that exudes both cool sophistication and an exuberance that pushes you towards the nearest dancefloor. All that and fuzz-guitar breaks! What more could you want?!




Tim Presley - The Wink


(This review first appeared in issue 60 of Shindig! magazine)

Drag City CD / LP / Cass
On the first album released under his own name it's unclear whether the artist formerly known as White Fence is an idiot savant or enjoying a private joke. Given the album's title it may well be the latter. Even so that holds its own charms. With nursery rhyme melodies, stream of consciousness lyrics and ego-less vocals he presents himself as a potential Syd Barrett for the cassette generation.
Characterised by fragmentation and dissolution, this strange, skewed pop is not easy to like at first but gradually reveals its layers, shifting between deconstructed post-punk grooves and sentimental lo-fi balladry. Producer Cate Le Bon has had the task of assembling the song choices from a mountain of demos, which adds to the sense of detachment.

Salvation comes via the spiky guitar lines which are worthy of Wire and even Trout Mask Replica. It makes you wonder what Presley could produce should he feel more engaged.


Thursday, 9 March 2017

Interview with The Blind Owls


(This feature first appeared in issue 59 of Shindig! magazine. For the full unedited interview click over the jump at the bottom of this post.)

 
Corpus Christi is a coastal city in south Texas and the unlikely home of latest garage-beat sensations The Blind Owls. In a city famed for palm trees and subtropical weather The Blind Owls play music more readily associated with dank Liverpudlian cellar bars and rowdy Reeperbahn strip-joints. Their debut LP, All Day And Night, echoes Merseybeat and early rock 'n' roll with a hint of US garage. All played with verve and vigour, and a musicality beyond their tender years.

The band describe themselves thus - “'60s rock 'n' roll, well-dressed, energetic and raw”. True, but not the full story. Rather than the usual one-sound-fits-all favoured by many garage acts, these guys have a variety and breadth of approach. Guitarist Josh De Leon explains “I took a classical guitar class in high school, where I learned all about new techniques and styles of playing. I try to bring a different style into our music influenced from any genre that I'm currently listening to. I also enjoy playing the organ and have incorporated that into a few songs.”

Their harmonies, George Harrison style guitar licks and instrumental colouring put the band ahead of many contemporaries. Guitarist and main songwriter Jesse De Los Santos says -“We do our best to put a lot into our music, it’s something we all had to work hard at but now seems to come naturally. Harmonies are very important for us; the right harmony at the right place can change the mood of the song. The same goes for guitar fills and so on.”

For a band born around the time the Beatles Anthology compilations, their affection for '60s music is as passionate as it is surprising. Says Jesse - “We grew up influenced by our parents, listening to the Beatles or Elvis every day on the way to school and just being around that music struck a chord with us. As we got older, we delved deeper into the music of the '60s, where we discovered many new artists. We fell in love with the sounds of close harmonies, jangly guitars and all the beautiful melodies and talent these musicians had. There’s so much great music to be found and the music of the '60s is something that we really appreciate.”

Other influences include The Zombies, The Kinks, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Easybeats, The Chantays and Buddy Holly. Drummer Dylan Rommel's influences stretch further still - “I've been playing drums for 10 years. However, I didn’t start taking it seriously until I joined the band. I use my drumming to bring a laid back style, influenced by R&B and jazz of the 1960s.”

Live shows are an energetic affair with bassist Carlos Garcia citing Pete Towshend and Elvis as his visual inspiration. The band plan to mak shau as far afield as money will allow but sadly there are no plans for a European visit just yet. Though as Jesse says “we hope to bring our music there one day, if anyone would like to help us let us know!” Over to you promoters!


All Day And Night is self-released on CD. A cassette version is available from Dadstache Records. Soundflat Records will be releasing a vinyl LP.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Neighbourhood Strange – Let's Get High / One Last Chance 7”


If sixties were nineties. Beefy garage-psych from the Salisbury quintet.


Less than a year on from their eponymous debut 7”, The Neighbourhood Strange are back with another double A-sided dose of dark garage-psych. This couln't have arrived at a better time for me. I recently had chat with a pal about psychedelia where he described it as music that's all about head-in-the-clouds, holding hands and golden unicorns. This slab of plastic may help in opening his up his mind. Let's all wear flowers in our hair? No thanks, let's just crack on with the substances instead. Psych is a very broad church that can accomodate a lot of punk-ish attitude.

The Neighbourhood Strange have one foot in the Sunset Strip garage sound of the mid '60s and another in the swaggering guitar band sound that was all the range in the '90s. With a lead vocal that recalls both Lennon's salty snarl and Jim Morrison's baritone. 'Let's All Get High' is a call to arms for heads everywhere. Unlike the treble-heavy '60s recordings that have obviously inspired the band, the track benefits from today's production values. It's all about the full sonic spectrum baby, where the bottom end can cut through!

Flipside 'One Last Chance' has a slower early '70s Stones-ey vibe. Jagger-esque vocals with instrumental passages where both guitar and organ get to take centre stage. Another top release. Nice work lads! Anyway where did I leave that golden unicorn?


Released on March 17th on 7” vinyl and CD (Each limited to 500 copies).

Click here for The Neighbourhood Strange on Facebook.
Click here for The Neighbourhood Strange on Bandcamp.


Green Seagull announce debut 7" single!

Green Seagull
Scarlet b/w They Just Don’t Know
MEGA15
Limited edition 7-INCH SINGLE (300 COPIES).
RELEASE DATE: 16/06/17

 
Taking their name from a mis-heard Rolling Stones lyric, Green Seagull are the latest band to burst out of London's burgeoning neo-psych scene. The band formed in 2016 when Paul Nelson (New Electric Ride) approached Paul Milne (Hidden Masters / Magnetic Mind) to work on some songs together. A shared enthusiasm for late-60s baroque psychedelia and 12-string jangle soon blossomed into a prolific songwriting team, and before long the duo had more songs than they knew what to do with. 

They were joined shortly after by Sarah Gonputh on keys and Carlos Redondo on drums, and the newly-minted quartet set about recording a demo in their rehearsal room on an old cassette 4-track. These lo-fi recordings pricked up the ears of Mega Dodo Records, who immediately signed the band for an album deal. 

Since then the band have played a handful of well-received shows around London and have been hard at work recording their debut single and LP at Sausage Studios with producer Sebastian Kellig (My Drug Hell). 

We were reluctant to commit ourselves to naming an A-side and it did seem a bit audacious to refer to these 5 minutes and 58 seconds of joy as a single. So, we have covered our embarrassments by treating this as if it were a mini LP and releasing it in stereo in a sleeve with a pretty colour picture. 'Scarlet / They Just Don't Know' is released by Mega Dodo in June 2017, with a much longer album set to follow later in the year.

Click here for Mega Dodo Records.
Click here for Green Seagull on Twitter. 

The Greek Theatre - Broken Circle


Swedish duo follow up their acclaimed debut with another stunning LP!


Having done this writing malarkey for quite some years now, there are certain albums that stick in the mind and heart more than others. One personal favourite that came my way has been Lost Out At Sea by The Greek Theatre. It was their debut album, the first of four LPs the band claimed, after which they would cease to exist. It's folksy, west coast soft-rock embellished with woodwind and pedal steel had a sun-drenched sadness and staring-at-the-sea introspection that chimed with me at the time. And still does.

At the time the band stated their next album would have more of a Brit-folk sound, taking its inspiration from the Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Pentangle and the like. That album has now “dropped” as the current parlance goes. I was a little hesitant to play it at first. Who among us has not experienced that disappointment of the “sophomore” album. (Another journalistic pet hate, can't we just say second?!?) I'm pleased to say my fears were unfounded. This time round the sunny west-coast vibe has been replaced with chilly winds and drizzle from the North Atlantic.

Sven Fröberg and Frederick Persson are the core duo that make up The Greek Theatre. Their music is melodically strong but open ended enough for fluid improvisation. For this album they've been assisted several collaborators including pedal steel player Matthias Danielson (who featured on Lost out At Sea), Lisa Isaksson and David Svedmyr from Me and The Kites. Andreas Ralsgård adds clarinet to several tracks and drummer Tomas Eriksson does a sterling job with David Axelrod beats throughout.

Though the Greek Theatre's musical influences hail from the late '60s/early '70s they somehow manage to tap into today's zeitgeist. The music on Broken Circle would not be out of place on the recent Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs curated English Weather compilation on Ace Records. Gentle acoustic passages, interspersed with with improvised rock, all embellished with jazz and folk touches. It's music that reflects the uncertainty of our times. Not pessimistic as such, but resigned to sitting things out until the good times return. As they sing on the album's title track -

Let's go together through the chaos all around. And though the road is rough and rocky rest assured it'll lead us home.”


Click here for more on The Greek Theatre.
Click here for The Greek Theatre on Facebook.
Clickhere for Sugarbush Records.


David McWilliams - Lord Offaly


(This review first appeared in issue 59 of Shindig! magazine)

Esoteric Recordings CD

He's best known for his 1967 song 'The Days of Pearly Spencer', but David McWilliams' later recordings reveal a songwriter whose deep talents should have been more widely recognized. This is perhaps the best of his '70s albums, revered most for the progressive folk and Irish history lesson of the title track. With his knack for folk-based storytelling songs the “Irish Bob Dylan” tag was well deserved, though on the evidence here he could also have given James Taylor and Elton John a run for their money.

A shy, thoughtful man away from the stage, qualities which are reflected in the sensitive songs on this newly re-mastered CD. Lack of promotion in an era crowded with singer-songwriters meant he was overlooked by the record buying public, but this reissue shows him as the real deal - a compassionate songwriter whose eye and pen turned towards those in society who others shunned.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Amazing - Ambulance


(This review first appeared in issue 59 of Shindig! magazine)
  
Partisan CD / LP

The Swedish quintet's fourth album sees them hone their brand of finely sculpted ambient rock. The majestic glacial guitar chimes and fluid jazz-informed drumming are intact, along with Christoffer Gunrup's melodic, icy vocals which drift over the backing like mist over a fjord. Scandinavian indie-noir indeed! But there's more – the skewed breakbeat and eerie tumbleweed twang on 'Blair Drager', the breezy indie-pop of 'Floating' and album closer 'Perfect Day For Shrimp' which showcases their folksier acoustic side.

Imagine the band Nick Drake would have formed if he'd gone electric and recruited The Edge as second guitarist. The addition of understated keys, string swells and hazy vocal harmonies further enhance but it's the softly sung, often undecipherable vocals which allow listeners to create their own associations, meanings and relationships with the songs. Sublime but soaringly emotional, moody but magnificent. The perfect soundtrack for late summer introspection.


The Ace - I Dream Love / Man Out Of Time 7"


(This review first appeared in issue 59 of Shindig! magazine)
 
Crocodile 7”

In the centre of the Venn diagram of mod, freakbeat and powerpop you'll find The Ace. Although they've released two albums this is the Leeds band's debut on vinyl, a double A-side, back-to-mono delight courtesy of rising garage label, Crocodile Records, based over the Pennines in Manchester.
'I Dream Love' is propelled by its central guitar riff which sounds like The Beatles' 'If I Needed Someone' played with a gob full of purple hearts. Fleshed out with a nifty bass line and accomplished three way harmonies, it has '66 beat explosion written all over it. This 50 year displacement is an issue addressed on the flipside. It's less immediate, more thought-out, all minor key guitar stabs and tight, snappy drum rolls.

Evidently the band are as skilled at depth as they are at filling dancefloors. Fans of The Action, The Creation and The Jam will want to give this monaural gem some heavy rotation.


Rainbow Ffolly - Ffollow Up




(This review first appeared in issue 59 of Shindig! magazine)
 
Footprints LP

This year's unlikeliest comeback is the return of Rainbow Ffolly, the psychedelic pop group whose sole LP from 1968, Sallies Fforth, (released on Parlophone no less!) is now a much sought after psych-era artefact. Forty eight years on and the band's second album expands their unique strain of quirkedelia, contains the same playful humour, and displays an array of styles with prog, jazz and country all getting a look in. Of particular interest to fans of their '60s work is 'Tour de Fforce' which references their days of touring in a clockwork ambulance!

There are moments of seriousness though, and throughout the band come across as gifted musicians. Not surprising to learn then that bassist Roger Newell and guitarist John Dunsterville went on to tour with Rick Wakeman's English Rock Ensemble in the '70s. Ffollow Up is proof that where '60s culture is concerned the ffootnotes are often more ffun than the main text.

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Sound Of The Valentines (Complete Recordings 1966-1970)


(This review first appeared in issue 58 of Shindig! magazine)

Cherry Red CD

It's a long way to the top if you want to rock 'n' roll! So opined Bon Scott in 1975, and he should know. As one of two vocalists in Perth's Valentines, Scott slogged round Australian venues in search of that lucky break.

A string of singles revealed a band trying out styles hoping for a hit. Mod, Beat, psychedelic soul and music hall-inspired novelty all took their turn, as did a Coca-Cola ad. All their A and B-sides are here along with four unreleased TV broadcast tracks from their earlier guise as The Spektors.

An ill-advised foray into Bubblegum signaled the end, with a fortuitous Easybeats association taking Scott nearer the Young Brothers' orbit. An insightful compilation, worth hearing for the band's high watermark 'Juliette', the psych-pop splendour of 'Peculiar Hole In The Sky', and the future rock god's version of 'Nick Nack Paddy Whack'. I kid ye not!


Morgan Delt - Phase Zero


(This review first appeared in issue 58 of Shindig! magazine)

Sub Pop LP / CD / CASS

Despite the implied clean slate, Delt already has a self-released six song cassette and a full length LP to his name. Yet this latest outing makes the best starting point, with Delt having honed his mix of home-made bedroom psych and trippy soft rock. Experimental but never at the expense of melody, with his falsetto vocals low in the mix the ten songs are performed entirely by Delt in his Topanga Canyon studio. It's a modern take on west coast psychedelia, avoiding retro re-hash errors and sound-a-like faux pas.

The poppy 'I Don't Want To Know What's Happening Outside' begins the inner journey before giving way to the heavier, more ominous tracks that characterise the rest of the album. Coming across as the Californian hippy cousin of Jacco Gardner, Delt has created a comforting blanket of sunshine dappled lo-fi layering, albeit one that hints at darkness in the sunshine state.


The Wild Oats - The Oak EP


(This review first appeared in issue 58 of Shindig! magazine)
 
Big Beat 10”

In the early '60s Liverpool had The Beatles, London The Stones. In deepest Suffolk it was The Wild Oats who tore up the local dancehalls with blues-based rock 'n' roll. After hooking up with EMI publicist David Nicholson, then hoping to break through as an independent record producer, the band recorded an EP to sell at gigs. With only 100 copies pressed on the custom Oak label, an original 1964 copy could seriously damage your bank balance. More affordable is this 10”, expanded with a further five tracks from a later session.

With their choice of R&B and photo shots the band would go on to inspire acts such as Dr. Feelgood, The Milkshakes and The Strypes. There would be no world changing concept albums to follow, but for the sound of pre-rock boom Brits making music with youthful, joyous abandon look no further. The Wild Oats still play live locally on select special occasions.

 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Historic Compilation of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda's Private Press Ashram Recordings


‘WORLD SPIRITUALITY CLASSICS, VOLUME 1: THE ECSTATIC MUSIC OF ALICE COLTRANE TURIYASANGITANANDA’
IS OUT MAY 5th

Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda’s devotion to spirituality was the central purpose of the final four decades of her life, an often-overlooked awakening that largely took shape during her four-year marriage to John Coltrane and after his 1967 death. By 1983, Alice had established the 48-acre Sai Anantam Ashram outside of Los Angeles.  She quietly began recording music from the ashram, releasing it within her spiritual community in the form of private press cassette tapes.  On May 5, Luaka Bop will release the first-ever compilation of recordings from this period, making these songs available to the wider public for the first time.  Entitled ‘World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda,’ the release is the first installment in a planned series of spiritual music from around the globe; curated, compiled and distributed by Luaka Bop.... 

Click over the jump to read more... 

Games For May 2017, The Half Moon, Putney

 
Mega Dodo is hosting Games For May at the Half Moon, Putney on Sunday 28th May 2017 for the third and final time. The Junipers, Mark and The Clouds, Jack Ellister Band and the Crystal Jacqueline Band will be appearing and the first 150 ticket holders get at goodie bag containing a Mega Dodo 7-inch single, exclusive Mega Dodo and Sugarbush Records CDs and gig poster. Exclusive lathe cuts singles from each of the bands appearing will be available as well as collectables from Mega Dodo and Sugarbush Records.

Tickets are £17.50 in advance available from THE HALF MOON
 
The Junipers are a 5-piece band who have been playing and recording together since 2000. Their recordings mix Sitar, Zither, Balalaika, Harp, Mellotron etc, with vocal harmonies, psychedelic effects & enough pop elements to keep it all sweet. They released their debut album "Cut Your Key" in 2008 & received rave reviews from Uncut magazine, The Word, Record Collector among others. They gained single of the week on BBC Radio 2& airplay for their 4 singles released so far by Steve Lamacq, Bob Harris, Mark Radcliffe, Janice Long, Marc Riley, Tom Robinson, Cerys Matthews etc. The follow up album "Paint the Ground" was released in Feb 2012 and in 2016 they released “Red Bouquet Fair”.
 
 Mark and The Clouds is a London based band playing a blend of timeless, catchy and powerful pop. Evolving from Instant Flight, a band so cool they persuaded the legendary Arthur Brown to sing on their debut album, Colours & Lights, Mark & The Clouds is fronted by vocalist and songwriter Marco Magnani. Their debut album “Blue Skies Opening” was full of breath-taking pop rock songs and powerful ballads. Since its release, Mark& The Clouds have been writing and recording its follow up “Cumulus” which is released in early 2017.
 
Crystal Jacqueline and her musical partner Icarus Peel have been wowing audiences around the British Isles for several years. In 2016 they were asked to support Tir na nOg on several dates and are all set to expand their horizons with a new band and some festival dates in 2017. It’s early days but expect the new band to deliver the kind of powerful rock that made Jacqueline’s “Sun Arise” album a classic psych, rock 'n' roll and acid folk gem. They’ll undoubtedly be some intimate acoustic material added for good measure. A new album is being made ready for release in 2017 and with a new band, new album and festival dates lined up, the future is looking very promising for The Crystal Jacqueline Band.
 
Jack Ellister, former member of several bands including the Sony/SPV-signed Angina Pectoris, was founder, songwriter and leader of Yordan Orchestra, a latterday prog-psychedelic outfit from Holland whose concerts ware sprawling happenings, heavy with the whiff of a druggier, bygone age. In 2011 Jack Ellister disbanded the group and concentrated on producing his first full length album. Released in early 2016, “Tune Up Your Ministers And Start Transmission From Pool Holes To Class O Hypergiants” received airplay on Mark Radcliffe's Music club and Mark and Stuart Maconie's Show on BBC 6Music, and they rather liked it! Jack has performed solo at several events to promote his album, but he promises a full band for his appearance at the Half Moon. Anything could happen, and probably will.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Trimdon Grange Explosion - Trimdon Grange Explosion


North-east London folk collective releases full-length debut LP. And it's very good!


One album I've been listening to a lot recently is the self-titled debut by Trimdon Grange Explosion. It's the first release on their own Borley Rectory imprint. The London-based quartet make English folk-rock in the style of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Pentangle et al. And they do it very well, mixing their own compositions alongside well known traditional songs such as 'Poor Wayfaring Stranger'. The band's use of rock dynamics, swells and repetition owe much to the work of Velvet Underground. Plenty of I-IV chord shifts and John Cale-style viola drone.

It comes as no surprise to learn then that despite this being their debut long-player, the band members have a history and a pedigree. All four were previously members of The Eighteenth Day Of May, and viola player Alison and bassist Mark also perform as a duo (The Left Outsides). The album is available as a CDR with A5 booklet and a limited edition cassette. Don't hang about though as according to their social media it's selling pretty quick!

Trimdon Grange Explosion are -

Alison Cotton (viola/vocals)
Ben Phillipson (guitar/vocals)
Mark Nicholas (bass)
Karl Sabino (drums)


Click here for Trimdon Grange Explosion on Twitter.
Click here for Trimdon Grange Explosion on Facebook.