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Sunday, 18 March 2018
Spinning off from Camper Van Beethoven’s weird orbit, Victor Krummenacher, Greg Lisher, Chris Pedersen and David Immerglück, collectively known as the Art/Psych/Prog band Monks of Doom, have been intermittently releasing strange and beautiful records since 1986. Seen as a opportunity to go beyond Camper’s brand of Folk Rock and Sixties influenced Pop Psych and deep into the type of diverse experimental music played by kindred spirits Henry Cow, Snakefinger, King Crimson, Richard Thompson, Fred Frith and a host of other iconoclastic artists, Monks Of Doom have built a small but very impressive discography over the years with their last LP, the covers collection What’s Left For Kicks?, seen as a career spanning collection of recordings interpreting some of the bands most obvious and most obscure influences. The typically diverse selection of artists represented included Neu!, The Kinks, Rahssahn Roland Kirk, Nino Rota, Wire, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steve Hillage, and Roy Harper among others……………a bizarre blend of influences/inspirations that seems to perfectly encapsulate the Monks’ own unique sound. Due for release next weekend, the new Monks Of Doom album, The Brontë Pin, simply picks up where they left off in 2005 with their album of covers with more spontaneous forays into the worlds of improvised music, adventurous instrumental work, dystopian paranoia and mind melting psychedelia and bar an excellent cover of Sandy Denny’s ‘John The Gun’, it’s their first album of all new material since 1993’s Forgery.
Slowly evolving from studio sessions starting way back in 2009, The Brontë Pin highlights both the bands improvisational skills with dynamic instrumental passages and their more concise songwriting talents where Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson are imaginatively channeled. Mixing together swirling Psychedelia and Prog Rock with more gentle Folk Rock influences just for starters, the album is by measures more aggressive and more laid back than previous recordings, continuing in the grand tradition of this exceptional yet reclusive group of musicians, melding myriad influences into a virtuosity hard to define in the world of current music. Opening with the swirl of ‘The Brontë Pin pt. 1’, Monks Of Doom take the scenic route from A to B (no doubt going via L, S and D along the way) though 12 brilliant tracks gloriously twisting and turning through Psych/Prog and Acid Folk while occasionally taking imaginative detours into Eastern flavoured psychedelia (with the mind blowing ‘Duat! Duat!’) and supercharged Post Punk. Steeped in the culture of Acid Rock experimentation/improvisation, the Monks mix hazy West Coast Cosmic jams with more complex Prog Rock structures as instrumental tracks spin off in tangents but always economical and measured, never self indulgent. The massive influence of late 60s/early 70s British Folk Rock is more than evident on the stunning ‘Boar's Head’ which infuses the Folk tradition with weird electronica, ‘Osiris Rising’ which sounds like a long lost Richard Thompson track and the aforementioned Sandy Denny song. As with What’s Left For Kicks?, Monks Of Doom have incorporated their assortment of 60s, 70s and 80s influences and their very cool taste in tunes into an album that defies any sort of categorization, however with The Brontë Pin the range of material is wider, and the abilities of the band seem so much more accomplished than before. For fans of early Island Records releases, “Classic” Rock/Prog, seminal 60s/70s Cult underground music and innovative/more experimental 1980’s Post Punk bands this is well worth your time. One of this year’s essential records.
Due for release via Pitch-A-Tent Records on 23/03/2018, The Brontë Pin is available on CD from all good record stores, the usual suspects on line or direct from Monks Of Doom here…… http://www.monksofdoom.com/music.
Sunday, 11 March 2018
Down in our psychedelic basement we absolutely love the lush organic sound of old Mellotrons and Toinen Toista, the new album from Finnish Prog Rock band Malady, is completely bathed in the sweeping string and flute loops of this iconic instrument, evoking the early 70s era of the classic BritProg bands such as Yes, King Crimson, Camel, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Caravan among many others. As if escaping from a time capsule marked “1971”, Toinen Toista, along with lavish Mellotron washes, has all the other necessary elements in place (growling Hammond organ, fluttering Mini-Moog, soaring guitars and a supple, Jazzy rhythm section) that will make any serious ProgHead go weak at the knees. Malady’s 2015 eponymous debut album was a deserved underground hit, a beautifully realised piece of original Finnish Progressive Rock with their very British influences glazed with the kind of homegrown sweetness only vintage Scandinavian Prog Rock can provide………….the new album ups the ante somewhat with an epic, multi-layered 23 minute track that channels the shifting soundscapes of Close To Edge era Yes along with four other fantastic tracks with their roots very firmly in the golden age of 1970s “progressive” music.
Fluid and beautifully mellow, Toinen Toista opens with the stunning title track where Hammond organ and guitar coil around each other seductively evoking the sound of early Camel before melting into the short violin led neo-classical interlude ‘Laulu Sisaruksille’. It’s all comfortingly familiar, Malady have cherry picked all the best moments from your favourite 70s Prog records and created an album, although not stunningly original, that strips away the excess that gave the genre such a bad name towards the end of the 70s. It’s a very skillfully crafted LP and Malady are not afraid to mix it up either, ‘Tiedon Kehtolaulu’ mashes together 70s Space Disco bass lines with swirling Moog and Etsijän Elinehto takes its inspiration from mid-period…..erm…..commercially viable Pink Floyd with Rick Wright’s organ sound running through its core and topped off with a scorching Gilmour-esque solo. Flip the disc and check the 23 minute track 'Nurja Puoli' that ebbs and flows through different moods and textures. This is where Malady’s many influences/inspiration really show themselves, mixing the more gentle side of King Crimson with Steve Hackett’s fluent guitar runs then adding the shifting complexity of Yes to this potent brew just for starters. Never tipping over into self indulgence as it shifts through the gears, ‘Nurja Puoli’ is an epic journey through Roger Dean landscapes, distilling the essence of genre that still has the power to be genuinely thrilling nearly 50 years on from its heyday. For the dedicated Prog Rock fan who thought the day the music died was when Gentle Giant announced they were splitting up, this is an essential purchase.
Due to be released via Finnish label SVART Records on LP and CD on 30/03/2018, Toinen Toista by Malady is available to pre-order from the SVART website now. You can check out the album, stream or buy the digital download here…………….
Saturday, 10 March 2018
For fans of the mesmerizing guitar interplay of Television, the kinetic Post Rock grooves of Battles and the noisenik squall of early Sonic Youth there is a new album from Belgian Post Rock/Psych Rock instrumental band Statue landing imminently. With a line up of guitar + guitar + bass + drums + guitar + guitar, Statue’s “shock and awe” approach mixes a heavy wall of massed guitars with a tight and nimble rhythm section that is an intense “guitar-extravaganza-experience” yet fluid and danceable, with their dense sound having previously been compared to Post Rock titans such as Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Already building a reputation on the Belgian alternative music scene with two previous excellent long players and having played eye catching shows at the Pukkelpop festival and the Eindhoven Psych Lab, Statue’s third release, Kasper, could be the breakout record that will bring the band to the attention of a much deserved wider audience.
Smart and clever without ever disappearing in a fog of unlistenable pretentious bullshit, Kasper works on many different levels…………….there are echoes of the glacial guitars of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd that elegantly fused together during Television’s greatest moments and the quiet, loud, very loud Post Rock dynamics of bands such as Mogwai mixed with elements of Prog Rock and layers of fuzzed out sonic sprawl that are offset by pulsing motorik bass lines and hyperactive drumming that rocks like a bastard, having much more in common with muscular new Psych Rock bands such as RMFTM and Causa Sui than Space Rock jam bands that are more Grateful Dead than Cosmic Dead. Very modern sounding and taking their inspiration/influences from different sources, Statue have avoided all of the clichés that can blight a new record………………there is no Stoner Rock Sabbath riffing, trips to deep space or the recycling post Psychedelic vibes but an intelligent, economical conceptualization of instrumental Post Rock/modern Psych Rock. No doubt sequenced to work as a continuous piece of music, the album flows beautifully with guitars soaring and spiraling into infinity over nine brilliant tracks as Statue explore what kind of glorious noise you can make with four guitarists. Sharp, urgent and crammed with monster grooves, Kasper is a fantastic record that demands your attention.
Due to hit the racks on 16/03/2018, the new Statue album is an LP/CD joint release by the London label Jezus Factory Records with the Belgian label FONS Records and will be available from the more adventurous record stores, on line from the usual suspects or directly from the Jezus Factory and FONS websites.
Sunday, 4 March 2018
With a new album on the way, produced by the Cocteau’s Robin Guthrie, there is a wonderfully strange and beautiful EP from Heligoland for you to check out. Working at the margins of Dreampop/Shoegaze and Post Rock, Heligoland’s music is characterised by expansive, layered arrangements and the soaring vocals of Karen Vogt and has been described as a combination of “the emotive ethereality of The Cocteau Twins with the stark balladry of Low” which perfectly encapsulates the glacial beauty of the Coriallo EP. Featuring five shimmering songs that embody the fusion of “post-rock soundscapes with ambient textures and drone laced melodies” that Heligoland have built their reputation on, Coriallo is there strongest release to date and will leave fans of the band eagerly awaiting the release of the new LP.
With echoes of Slowdive at their most ethereal, the Coriallo EP is the perfect blend of ambient soundscaping and Alt-Rock stripped down to it’s purest essence. Having more in common with the late night ambiance of modern Post Rock influenced Americana than the squall of MBV and The Jesus & Mary Chain, Heligoland are taking Shoegaze far into uncharted lands. With Alt-Country guitar textures swamped with reverb, the opening track ‘Ełk’ and the crystaline ‘Anavo’ sound something not unlike The Cowboy Junkies from another planet……….elegantly minimal with Karen Vogt’s vocals surrounded by a swirl of guitars the songs sparkle before slowly leaving a diminishing vapor trail. With every play of the EP uncovering more and more subtle textures, Coriallo is stunningly beautiful and essential listening to any fan of quality Shoegaze and atmospheric American Alt-Rock.
Out NOW on limited edition CD and download via the Paris based boutique label Commission 45, you can check out/stream/buy the EP here……………
Green Seagull first introduced themselves last year with two very groovy 7” singles released by the good folk at Mega Dodo. A London Psych Pop “supergroup” of sorts including members of New Electric Ride, Magnetic Mind and The Lysergics, Green Seagull are 60s Psychedelia obsessives, (cut them and they will bleed Paisley), and would be the first to admit that they are not pushing the envelope or breaking boundaries but are playing the music they love. Their harmony-laden Baroque/Freakbeat sound draws upon influences such as the Left Banke, the Kinks, and the Association and exists trapped in a time bubble somewhere between 60s swinging London and the psychedelic daze of 1967 S.F.. Landing at the end of the month, it would be fair to describe their debut album, Scarlet Fever, more of a sum of their influences than Green Seagull having stamped their own distinctive mark on the Neo-Psych genre, sounding more like a classy homage in the style of The Dukes Of Stratosphear than taking the late 60s as a starting point and exploring their own sonic path…………..but, hey, nothing wrong with that and Green Seagull’s retro sounds fit the ethos of Mega Dodo perfectly.
Stylistically Green Seagull mix the suburban psychedelia of late 60s BritPsych bands with the more expansive sound of the Folk Rock/Baroque Psych Pop American bands such as H.P. Lovecraft, Serpent Power, Sweetwater and Daughters Of Albion……with a bigger recording budget Scarlet Fever is the kind of record that would likely be bathed in Mellotrons and woodwind arrangements. It’s a pretty accurate facsimile of the period where the Psychedelic sounds from the States were being filtered into the consciousness of the more creative British bands. In an era when most new Psych LPs sound like Hawkwind, CAN and Sonic Youth fighting to the death in a distant galaxy, Green Seagull are still partying like it’s 1967 and seriously digging it. Comprising of 14 self penned tracks, including the early singles ‘Scarlet’ and ‘(I Used To Dream In) Black and White’ with their respective B-Sides, Scarlet Fever is a very solid debut record on the whole and Green Seagull are definitively a band worth keeping an eye on for the future.………..however the album has been front loaded with the best tunes on the first side, starting to run out of steam towards the the end of the flip side and would have maybe worked better as a mini-album. There are going to be better records this year, but for any discerning fan of the more gentle, less freaked out sounds of 60s, the groovy first full release from Green Seagull is well worth checking out.
Due for release 30/03/2018 by Mega Dodo Records on limited edition run of 300 copies on green vinyl and also on CD available from groovy record shops, groovy on line retailers or pre-order it from the very groovy Mega Dodo shop. Also check it out/stream it/buy it from Mega Dodo’s groovy Bandcamp page here………………..
Sunday, 25 February 2018
Featuring the combined talents Jon Barker (organ), Graham Day (guitar), Darryl Hartley (bass guitar) and Wolf Howard (drums and percussion), The Senior Service are veterans of the Medway scene and have a musical lineage that goes back to the early 80’s and takes in legendary bands such as The Prisoners, The Mighty Caesars, The James Taylor Quartet, The Masonics and Billy Childish and The Buff Medways. They are back with their follow up to 2016's The Girl In The Glass Case, a tight and swinging LP of 60’s inspired instrumentals and imaginary film themes that were influenced by John Barry, Barry Grey, Booker T and the MG’s, Ennio Morricone and The Small Faces just to name a few and for fans of Hammond driven rave ups and twangy soundtrack inspired instrumentals the self penned new album, King Cobra, out soon on Damaged Goods will not disappoint.
King Cobra conjures up a lost world of late night sessions at the Flamingo Club in seedy Soho, strange Spaghetti Westerns, swinging spy movies/cool crime capers that more than likely starred Michael Caine and the themes for classic British TV shows that were just a bit twisted and slyly psychedelic. Not that this is anything new, The JTQ were covering Lalo Schifrin ages ago and Barry Adamson made his name post Magazine/Bad Seeds composing dark noirish soundtracks for the film in his head, but The Senior Service are so damn groovy and it’s the twangy guitar, churning organ, pumping bass and funk drums that define this band. Bursting outta yer speakers, the swirling ‘The Contender’ kicks off proceedings with urgent bass and drums that demands you put on those dancing shoes and set em on fire! The rest of the record winds it’s way through all sorts of moods that have the essence of tough 60s R&B blended with wide screen cinematic splendor coming on like the love child of Booker T and Ennio Morricone. It’s cool stuff…………no doubt fans of The Prisoners and JTQ are already aware of this band, but if The Senior Service have passed you by and sharp 60s vibes are your thing thing then King Cobra is going to be well up your street…………..check it out cool cats, it feels like the time is just right for a fresh batch of exciting tunes played on antique instruments by young-minded lovers of Sixties instrumentals!
Due for release on vinyl and CD by Damaged Goods on 27/04/2018 and available from the best record emporiums, but till then keep ‘em peeled for pre-orders from the usual suspects on line.
Saturday, 24 February 2018
Sacramento born, resident of Berlin, citizen of the psychedelic realm, Anton Barbeau is back with a brand new album jam packed with sparkling Psych Pop gems. Natural Causes is the not-very-longawaited follow-up to 2016’s critically acclaimed Magic Act (“His new album bathes beautifully constructed, thoughtfully arranged songs in a fading psychedelic sunshine, and it would be many casual consumers' album of the year if only they got to hear it. Four stars.") and the very brilliant 2017 EP release on Fruits de Mer which included covers of songs by Traffic, Big Star and Bowie, as well as the curious original, ‘Secretion of the Wafer’, which Barbeau claims is "one of the greatest songs about crowd funding, possibly ever" and is included on this record in its original version. Barbeau’s 23rd record since 1993 is a bright, open,sometimes sad and often shimmering collection of new songs and splendid remakes that channel the greatest moments of Julian Cope’s early LPs on Mercury, Robyn Hitchcock, the Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman and the more psychedelically inclined mid 80s songs by XTC along with “classic” 60s Psychedelia influences (Syd Barrett, The Beatles etc.) to produce one of his most cohesive works to date.
Joined by an assortment of guest musicians, whose collective CV includes The Pretenders, Paul McCartney, the Bevis Frond, Todd Rundgren and The Soft Boys among others, multi-instrumentalist Barbeau has shaped an album of idiosyncratic, acid tinged, "pre-apocalyptic Psychedelic Pop" songs drenched in ancient Mellotrons, analog synths and 12-string guitars. Opening with the Neo-Psych Byrdsian jangle of a reworking of his 1993 song ‘Magazine Street’, Natural Causes is a journey round the psychedelic world of Anton Barbeau…….evolving from a project from a request from his Spanish label for a jangly 12-string pop song, he set out to make a glorious-sounding album, personal and not overtly political which revisited his back catalogue to include the Baroque Pop rarity ‘Creepy Tray’ and squally remake/remodel of the mind blowing ‘Just Passing By’ with the aforementioned ‘Magazine Street’ and also includes new jangly swirl outs like ‘Mumble Something’ and ‘Magic Sandwiches’. The result is a stunningly brilliant record of fantastic, quirky, timeless Psych Pop that any discerning PsychHead really needs to hear. We gotta admit that down in our psychedelic basement, even though we are massive fans of Cope, Hitchcock, XTC and the Bevis Frond, the psychedelic sounds of Anton Barbeau had gone way below our radar until this beauty dropped through the post portal, so Natural Causes works as both an introduction for new fans of the “cult hero’s cult hero” and a sparkly reminder for those that have tried to follow Anton Barbeau through his limited releases on obscure indies for a while now……..Check this out People, you wont be disappointed.
Due for a joint release on 13/04/2018 by London label Gare du Nord and Northern California based label Beehive Records, Natural Causes will be available on CD (and also as a digital download) from all the best record stores, the usual suspects on line and Bandcamp with pre-orders being taken now.