The Wytches - Three Mile Ditch

Cable Code

Released: 13th November 2020

 

Perhaps things happened too quickly for The Wytches. It was only eight months after they released their debut single that they were snapped up by Heavenly Recordings who put them in the studio to record their debut album under the guidance of former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones. 2014's Annabel Dream Reader was an exciting, if uncompromising, collection of songs with the darkest of edges. Rummaging among the offcuts of musical styles, the band pieced together their own sound from the scrapings of punk, death rock, surf punk, garage blues, grunge and goth and managed to create something truly disjointed and unhinged. Everything was looking promising, but their world fell apart with 2016's follow-up All Your Happy Life which failed to meet expectations and by their own admission the band lost interest in what they were doing, believing they were now merely going through the motions. A four-year break has seen The Wytches rejuvenated and they have emerged with this ten-track collection, stretching out to some forty-two minutes. Three Mile Ditch is a curious beast, not really sounding like a band finding themselves, but like a band finding themselves to be three different bands, so diverse are the songs on offer. It's a credit to The Wytches that in whatever direction they turn they manage to do so classily, but it leaves the record feeling somewhat disjointed and unfulfilling. It all starts off so well, with 'Cowboy' occupying the swamp blues territory of the early Inca Babies with guitars vibrating and basses stretching lazily, and 'Three Mile Ditch' continues the journey with Rowland S Howard riffs and stuttering rhythms. 'Midnight Ride' sees a complete change of tack, sounding like Elliott Smith with its gentle acoustic guitars and soft vocals, while 'Fly Inside' moves sideways again, dancing like it was a feature of some sixties experimental film. Side one of the album concludes with 'A Love You'll Never Know', a wavering ballad, with side two opening in grunge rock mode with 'Meat Chuck' which sees Kristian Bell's voice stretched and breaking. 'Everyone's Friend' continues in the same vein with spoken vocals interchanging with furious howls before everything turns four hundred million degrees again with 'White Cliffs' a gentle chug-along in Big Star style and 'Silver Trees' a soft acoustic ballad. The album concludes with 'You Looked Happy To Me' which builds up nicely with a big guitar outro and has hints of John Lennon about the vocals. It's a weird one. Surely if a band need to find themselves again they should do so in the rehearsal rooms? There's probably not a song on Three Mile Ditch that we don't like, but also not three that should be sitting on the same album. Does that matter? Yes, it probably does.

Fred Abong - Our Mother Of Perpetual Help

Same

Released: 20th November 2020

 

Following on from his two EPs, Homeless (2018) and Pulsing (2019), former Throwing Muses and Belly bassist Fred Abong released his debut solo album at the end of 2020, OMOPH containing ten tracks stretching over thirty-three minutes. Every one of these songs hovers around the three-minute mark but that is the only concession here to classic pop tradition as Fred doesn't worry about choruses, solos and middle eights, he is simply relieved that his songs have come into existence in whatever form they take and that they can now find their own way in the world. The great thing about Fred's music is that it is impossibly intimate and uncompromising. Many people would listen to this record and miss the point entirely: OMOPH is not about entertainment or radio play or sales figures, but it is the work of an artist attempting to lay down his emotions in words he doesn't always understand to guitar accompaniments that sometimes tell a different story to his vocals. It's a struggle, but an honest one. Fred is not looking for approval, or empathy, or understanding. That's not to say he wouldn't welcome any of those, but his priority is to build bridges between himself and his songs and if anybody wants to wander across these bridges with him then they are more than welcome. As with his previous EPs, all of these tracks are sparse in arrangement, played out to voice and guitar, though the sound is denser than on his previous work with his vocals sounding a touch deeper and more gravelly. Fred will freely admit that some songs lose something in this format and would benefit from greater instrumentation, but this collection has all been recorded at home, without the resources to decorate them further. Conversely, some of the songs benefit from this simplicity and are moving in their relative penury. Opening track, 'The Minit', is one of these where the backing and vocals work together for good, emphasising a tale of resignation in defeat. Other songs see Fred's guitar acting as a shield as if he is more comfortable having something to hide behind as he reveals his thoughts. "When I come home and see your face / I am confused and out of place", he admits in 'The Lock' though his words are made small by the solidity of the backing. Sometimes the path of the guitar is begging for the vocals to take another route and sometimes the vocals demand more co-operation from the guitar, but lines are drawn and are never crossed. It's all rather vulnerable and appealing. As the guitar bends in 'Cork Off' offering new directions, Fred won't stand his ground. "I won't resist ... I lose every night to cowardice", he admits, while the most fluid of his backing tracks in 'Invisible Man' plays out to his admission that he doesn't have the strength to tread these shifting paths: "The invisible man can't walk through those walls / take any calls / or lift any fingers." These are songs of love and doubt and hope and helplessness that have forced themselves into the world. Don't dive in unless you are prepared to spend some time with them. If you "listen with half a mind and no ambition" you won't find much reward; if you persevere you will find yourself thrilling at the brittle nature and complexity of the human condition. And that's a prize worth having.

Pink Drone - Fluxus

Hip Slang

Released: 23rd November 2020

 

Pink Drone is the solo project of Herefordshire-based John Rose who took the opportunity to focus on his music over the 2020 lockdowns resulting in the release of his debut album, Fluxus, near the end of the year. This was the culmination of a prolific few months for the multi-instrumentalist who released the five-track Sleeper EP before the troubles began in January and followed it up with the seven-track Visitors EP in July. Fluxus contains twelve tracks and comes in at just under forty minutes, being very classical in form with most of the songs hovering around the three minute mark. Pink Drone's sound also borders on the classical, being synth-driven post-punk with plenty of references leaping to mind, including early Human League, Wire and Joy Division. The overriding mood here is one of disconnection and no doubt the crisis bought about by the pandemic has helped in this, though it can't be said that Fluxus depicts total darkness with Rose on occasion offering up some lighter touches. Opener 'The Light' offers a deep contrast between the coldness of the music and the lyric which encourages us to "feel the light in your heart". The synths are remote, the drum beat distant and lonely, and the mood is maintained by the second track 'Radiation' which inevitably sounds like the Joy Division classic that used our (then) record label's name. The vocal is again disjointed and fits well in front of the doomy synth that plays music for a robot dance. Just as it appears that everything in the Pink Drone world is in shadow, the light synth pop of 'Signals' bursts through the gloom as it chimes along jauntily. 'Zeitgeist' also is inherently uplifting despite some wooshing and moaning. Back on the dark side, 'Doppelganger' is hopelessly dislocated and the ominous, flickering instrumental 'European' is particuarly edgy as it brushes off waves of distortion. It's certainly one of the highlights here, as is 'The Underground' in which the plangent guitars add a welcome new texture. It has been so long since we have heard an album like this that it took us by complete surprise. It's the sort of record that could have been put out by Factory Records in 1980, but is a very welcome addition to the 2020s. Available on CD from Bandcamp.

Apodemus - Apodemus

Weird Beard

Released: 17th January 2021

 

Not resting on their laurels, Weird Beard have been quick off the mark to launch the second wave of their limited edition cassettes with their first release from Russia. This is a collection of three recordings produced by Apodemus over the past three years and adds up to around an hour of music. The five-track Orbital Elements EP first saw light of day in September 2017, with the live jam of 'Gagarin FUZZ' released in April 2018 to celebrate Cosmonauts Day, and the two-track Signal emerging in October of last year. Apodemus consist of Dmitry Melentiev (guitar), Maxim Danilov (bass) and Mikhail Skryabin (drums) and hail from Nizhny Novgorod on the Volga, just under three hundred miles east of Moscow. The eight tracks here are all fairly weighty instrumentals dominated by a series of impressive guitar tours de force. It's heavy rock music, with drums hammering and basses pounding as the guitars set to their work. There are some hints of the mystical east and some flashes of psych wooziness but on the whole this is a pretty determined juggernaut of sound that runs you down without blinking. What impresses most is the control. The early songs are sealed units, but even the live jam shows few signs of looseness over ten minutes despite the guitars running off apace. There's even room for a dip into the classical genre mid-noodle before things slow down into prog mellowness with some wooshing keyboards adding a bit of space magic. Of course, it all ends with a furious assault which is nicely done. 'Signal' is more spaced out. It opens to a gentle drone and popping keyboards and the guitars build themselves up gently and melodically until they reach maturity and start throwing their weight about. It's an impressive bit of playing, more accessible than the earlier tracks, but still carrying considerable weight. You woudn't want it to fall on you from any great height. The final track 'Asteroid' is the least regimented, changing in pace and outlook several times, bruised by some crushing guitars but also graced with some light fingerwork. It's a stuttering piece, full of uncertainty which is unusual in the context of this collection. As usual, you will need to get in quick to find a copy of this as these cassettes are released in runs of fifty and it is doubtful whether they will make it to the Weird Beard websales page.

Mienakunaru - Lost Bones Of The Holy Butterfly

Drone Rock Records

Released: 29th January 2021
There's no hanging around for Drone Rock Records either who open the year with two new releases, the first being the debut album by Mienakunaru, who describe themselves as a "power trio of psychedelic noise rock and space punk." This is the first time on record together for some very well known psych musicians, namely guitarist Junzo Suzuki who performs with 20 Guilders, Miminokoto, Astral Traveling Unity and Fuji; guitarist and bassist Mike Vest who is a part of OZO, Melting Hand, Blown Out, Bong and 11Paranoias; and drummer Dave Sneddon of Gruel, Fuck Em All Starrs and Bad Ra. Lost Bones Of The Holy Butterfly consists of one long piece of music stretching to around thirty-five minutes and neatly divided into two to fit the vinyl format. As might be expected this is an affray of guitars played over a pretty evenly paced beat. The bass climbs and dives without choosing to dominate, Sneddon hits plenty of metal and gets through a shedload of work but always maintains his discipline, while the guitars couldn't care less, quickly reaching overdrive and pretty much staying there. If this was a battlefield it would be a particularly gruesome one, as guitars clash, sear and rage before the warfare burns itself out through sheer exhaustion. If you are looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping before a night out then this is certainly going to get your brain throbbing; sometimes the guitars stretch out to reach to the heavens as the bass trawls the depths and often the sheer power of the sound simply floors you. It would easy to lose yourself in this, but don't imagine you will emerge without some bruising. The album has been pressed in an edition of 300, with 200 on an attractive green and black swirl vinyl for sale directly through the DRR website and 100 on transluscent green for shops and distribution. No doubt this will fly off the shelves so be sure to get in quickly.

Domboshawa - Mountain View

Drone Rock Records

Released: 29th January 2021
The other other new year offering from Drone Rock is the fourth outing by Domboshawa to be released by the label, following quickly on the heels of last year's Fyra. Despite employing a band name, this is the solo project of Stockholm's Anders Brostrom who plays guitar, bass, drums and synthesizers as well as recording everything himself in his small studio in Hägersten. Domboshawa is a mystical mountain in Zimbabwe and an inspiring hike there led to Brostrom adopting the name for his intricate psych jams, and mystical is a good frame of reference. Where Mienakunaru dive in head first with blistering power, Domboshawa take the time to explore, uncovering mysteries in soundscapes that cajole and soothe as well as chide and warn as they approach more heady vistas. There are some intricate overlaps that build moods and guide you in new directions and occasionally things splinter and threaten; there is danger in the mountains as well as peace and beauty. There are five tracks here, totalling some forty-two minutes of music. 'Silverhjäna' creeps in the shadows, spilling magic as it goes, while closing track 'Föben', the shortest here at three-and-a-half minutes, blows chill winds over a throbbing drone and offers no conclusions. The eleven minutes plus of opening track 'Earth' is the prettiest moment. Guitars flicker smoothly over a languid backing and charm you with their ever more persistent chatter. 'Växlande Molnlighet' ('Changing Clouds') throbs gently amongst flickering lights and 'Hjälmaren' ('The Helmet') dances easily over difficult terrain. It's all hugely atmospheric and often enticing and colours will be flashing in your brain long after the record has finished playing. Mountain View is being released in a run of 300, with a special edition of 200 pressed in a glorious red and yellow galaxy effect vinyl only available from the DRR website, and 100 other copies pressed in transluscent yellow made available to record shops.

Korb - Korb

Necio Records

Released: 31st January 2021
One of the highlights of last year was the appearance of Korb's second album on the Weird Beard label. Stuffed full of modular synths, treated rhythms and tripping guitars it was the perfect follow-up to the band's debut album, released on CD in 2018 by Dreamlord Recordings. Now, thanks to Peru's Necio Records, that debut is appearing on vinyl for the first time in a limited edition run of 300 in a 180g white and blue splatter effect. There's no doubt these will be snapped up quickly as Korb, the British duo of Alec Wood and Jonathan Parkes, produce a sound so perfectly correct you will probably see a picture of them if you glance at the dictionary definition of "space rock". Whereas Korb II held you by the hand as it guided you through the cosmos, exposing your brain to a myriad of wonders, the debut is not afraid to stray from the tourist path a little and throw in some glimpses of the darker underbelly of the universe. It's a little bit harder and just a little bit ruthless as the bass punches hard and the drums make themselves large. 'Power Structure' nags insistently, revealing an inner authority; 'Shapeshifter' considers its options a little edgily; while 'Megalith' is an umoving barrier evoking a hint of paranoia and a thirst for the fray. However, Korb see us safely through and offer up plenty of opportunities to sit back and enjoy the wonder of the ride. Opener 'Voyager' offers a gentle take-off as synths whirr and soothe while 'Earth Ritual' sways gently with a hypnotic lilt. 'Teleforce' offers a brisk and thrilling flight with the section of the journey between 'Setjen To Condor' revealing shimmering waves of cosmic wonders which are eerie though unthreatening. As a conclusion, 'Korb's First Android' sums up our ride in a bumbling narrative and waves us on our way. Don't miss out on Korb's first outing available here; hopefully it won't be long before Korb III is taking us to places no psych musician has gone before.

Helicon - Fuzz Club Session

Fuzz Club

Released: 11th January 2021
If any band was the perfect choice for recording the final Fuzz Club Session of 2020 it was Helicon. Not only did the Glasgow outfit record one of the highlight albums of the year, they work in such a way that lends itself to this format, recording largely live with very few overdubs added afterwards. They also had the perfect location in which to record, the new Dystopia studios in Partick, recently opened by Luigi Pasquini with whom thay had recorded This Can Only Lead To Chaos. The studio offers a large live room which was ideally suited for shooting the videos that accompanied this release, so it was just a case of setting up one day and then going for it the next. Six tracks are included here, stretching over thirty-two minutes, including two previously unreleased songs, 'Permo' and 'Il Bacio Di Guida'. As with This Can Only Lead To Chaos, the opening track on this release is 'Sound Of Confession'; here it is introduced by a piano piece which would make an excellent opening for a live stage show and, god, we cannot wait for those to start up again. A pretty faithful version of one of the album highlights, the shimmering 'In The End', follows with the side closing with the sitar-led 'The Sun Also Rises', some thirty seconds longer than the original. The new songs open side two, with 'Permo' a mellow, swinging instrumental which serves to demonstrate that Helicon can produce the prettiest of sounds as well as the dirtiest. It's great to see the sitar incorporated into the band without being forced to lead proceedings; it adds an extra texture and depth to the sound which is extremely effective. 'Il Bacio Di Giuda' is a heavier piece with space-age keyboards and shuddering guitars, while 'What You Love Will Kill You' closes the album and is over a minute longer than the album original. The whole song is a touch grimier with the vocals reduced to muffled howls amid a welter of grinding guitars. With their last studio album being released at the start of 2020, Helicon have been the soundtrack to a miserable year for many people and it appears somehow fitting that they have managed to bring some light to the end of it. Grab hold of a copy of this while you can and if they are playing near you some time later in the year, you will regret it if you miss out.

David Bowie - Liveandwell.com

Parlophone

Released: 15th January 2021
The third outing in Parlophone's Brilliant Live Adventures series is this hard-to-find live collection from Bowie's 1997 Earthling Tour which was originally made available on CD only to those people who had subscribed to the BowieNet website. That format contained ten songs from the 1. Outside (1995) and Earthling (1997) albums (five tracks from each) along with an additional CD containing mixes. There is no sign of the latter here, but side four of this double vinyl release showcases two more tracks from those gigs, 'Pallas Athena' from 1993's Black Tie White Noise and 'V2-Schneider' from 1977's 'Heroes'. Originally intended for general release, the concerts were recorded properly with Bowie in overall charge of production, aided by Reeves Gabrels and Mark Plati. When Virgin scrapped the idea of releasing the album worldwide in late 1998, Bowie decided to put it out himself in the limited edition format the following year with a title that tied it to his internet project. Because of its origins, the sound is terrific and though most of the songs are recorded in Amsterdam and New York (four months apart), being able to pick the best bits from any number of concerts certainly helps to mould the best record possible. Indeed, the sound is so good that there are few hints it is even being played live, and the whole gives a very good overview of the man's late-1990s frame of mind. This decade for Bowie marked the period where he was desperate to regain the credibility he had thrown away in the 1980s with three horrendous, commercially-orientated albums and though many of us felt he never again reached the heights he had achieved in the 1970s, at least the music he released from 1993 onwards never again plummeted the depths from which he now sought to crawl. Whether you are a huge fan of these songs or not, the sheer solidity of the production values makes this record enjoyable; it sounds huge and Bowie's voice shows few signs of the tiredness that weighed down his final releases. There's plenty of energy and Gabrels constantly shows what a truly fine guitarist he is. The rattling drums in the drum and bass tracks are fairly restrained, leaving the piano, guitars and voice to dominate and, quite simply, a lot of this record simply rocks. Bowie was always a great live performer and it sounds as though this tour would have been a most enjoyable one to catch. Nicely produced in a matt gatefold cover with inner sleeves featuring reports from BowieNet subsctibers, the only down sides are the customary lack of a download code and the fact that getting hold of this record is going to be difficult if you didn't jump in quickly.

Dreamweapon - Rites Of Lunacy

Cardinal Fuzz / Little Cloud

Released: 29th January 2021
Portugal’s prolific Dreamweapon recorded a lot of music last year, no doubt like many of us having time on their hands, but they are opening 2021 by releasing an album they made some four years ago, but which never saw the light of day. Now snapped up by Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud, this has been released on vinyl for the first time and it has certainly been worth the wait. Taking their name from Spaceman 3's live album, Dreamweapon: An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music, the band released their eponymous debut back in 2015 and Rites of Lunacy sits between that and 2018's Fuzz Club outing, Sol. The band regard it as unfinished (but never again hidden) but we struggle to think why as it it works as both a complete album and a concept, that being the dark spiral down which Dreamweapon slide, eternally doomed to piece together music in the unbreaking gloom. There are seven songs here, stretching over forty-one minutes, and each one is a joyless mantra with ghostly vocals complaining over swirling drones and repetitive, hypnotic rhythms. It's the repetition that draws you in as it creates the most inclusive music, the brain anticipating notes before they happen thus engaging the imagination. It's how hypnotism works; your mind takes the suggested path and when it does, you are lost. With Dreamweapon you are brought into the bleakest of worlds where all expression is distorted amongst a murky backdrop of noise. It's really rather glorious. Why live in a world free of distortion when clarity makes even less sense? It is surely better to immerse your senses in this relentless whirlpool of emptiness where desolation is your friend and everything is abandoned. It's difficult to pick highlights here as there are few weak points. 'Well Of Souls' is the bleakest moment, the lost crying out in a helpless plea for redemption, while 'Odum' picks out an undead melody that ultimately fails to find sustenance. The shimmering 'Moongazer' closes the album well with powerful surging guitars protesting atop a tribal beat. Grab a copy if you can. Rites Of Lunacy has been pressed in a limited edition run of 300 in galaxy blue and black vinyl available from the Cardinal Fuzz webpage and Bandcamp.

The Telescopes - Songs Of Love And Revolution

Tapete

Released: 5th February 2021
Stephen Lawrie has been pleasingly prolific in recent times, with Songs Of Love And Revolution his fifth album in just six years. The great thing about this run of fine records is that they have all taken a different approach; no two sound the same, and his latest offering is no exception, the eight tracks here treading a path that is both hypnotic and challenging. This is a beautifully constructed record as the dichotomy that lies at its heart is built into the construction of every song. All eight hover around the four to five-minute mark and are shaped the same way. A short bassline is looped throughout, along with a simple, one-hand drumbeat which never alters. This creates a constant that runs through the whole; every track given a solid foundation that speaks of immovability and power. It means that anything else that is added can only be surface-deep for against such certainty no force can ever really threaten. What, then, can revolution alter? What can love change? The backdrop is set, the world unbending, everything else is merely fleeting. Including life. Lawrie acknowledges this, "When the roll you're on, has gone, this train will keep on rolling on." The question he faces is whether this negates his emotions. He is in love and swamped by these strange waves, "all encompassing in all they bring." They will ultimately fade, but the question becomes whether it is the very transience of love that makes it so important: the flashing lights on the surface that captivate and enthrall for however brief a moment in time, the splashes of colour that make you forget the blackness at the heart of all things. "There is no shore in this life," he convinces himself, "There is only the wave." Deep down at the roots, he knows nothing will alter, "The ground will keep on holding, holding, holding..." The unshakeable rhythms are the roots. Above them Lawrie weighs up hope against certainty; his voice sometimes virtually indistinguishable, occasionally a plaintive whisper, sometimes more. The guitars create the waves, they leave us mesmerised and thrilled and ready to fight. They shape the beauty of the souls that are engulfed in the waves which tell them that life matters, not the certainty of a doomed existence. Love is not rooted, so fight for the moment. "Living is dreaming of living. Nothing seems how it should seem." Heavily distorted, guitars screech and buzz and flow as they wash over the relentless beats, creating patterns that are occasionally breathtaking in their raw beauty. There's hope in their defiance as they make their mark against every background. They throw themselves against the relentless march of time and dance delicately around hypnotic calls to surrender. They hammer and shriek and whisper and entrance. There may be ultimate defeat, but it was one hell of a ride. If any album is better than this one in 2021, we are in for a fascinating year.

The Jasmine Minks -

John Peel Session 17.02.86

Janice Long Session 24.11.86

Precious Recordings Of London

Released: 1st March 2021
I can't remember when I last bought a double seven-inch single. It was probably The Weather Prophets or The Mary Chain many years ago, so it is somehow fitting that the latest arrivals in this format are from radio sessions by their old Creation labelmates The Jasmine Minks, hearking back to 1986. These have been produced by a new label, Precious Recordings of London, and they have made a bloody fine job of it. Both February's Peel Session and November's Janice Long Session are housed in quality matt board gatefold covers and presented with additional postcards and excellent liner notes from guitarists Jim Shepherd and Wattie Duncan. I had no idea before reading these notes that the Minks were based in my birth-town, South Norwood, and the list of the local haunts they regularly visited made me ridiculously homesick. The music also stirred a few memories. The four tracks from the Peel Session are all taken from the band's first full-length LP, The Jasmine Minks, which is a record we seldom play because we find the treble uncomfortably sharp. The difference twiddling a few (admittedly more expensive) knobs can make is quite astounding. The opening track here, Adam Sanderson's 'The Ballad Of Johnny Eye', is transformed. There's such a depth to the sound that it opens up all manner of hidden subtleties. The bass reverberates pleasantly, the vocal is warm and human and hints of Peter Astor are recognisable in the delivery. Instead of slicing through your head, the solo is pleasantly melodic before the guitar weaves its way behind the final verse quite prettily. It's fantastic to be forced to reassess these tunes. 'Cry For A Man' still hints that the band wanted to be 'My Generation' era Who, but the comparison becomes more understandable. Jim Shepherd's 'You Take My Freedom', one of the best tracks on the original album, is bolstered with vocal harmonies and bursts of trumpet that add to its glow, while 'I Don't Know', the album opener but the closer here, is again transformed: it is smoother, less desperate and a world more rounded. Move on nine months and the band line-up has altered, with Sanderson departing and Duncan coming in on guitar. Three of the tracks here were new to the band, but went on to feature on their masterpiece, Another Age. Perhaps understandably the songs sound closer to demos than the finished article. 'Follow Me Away', with its nice ebb and flow, is a little barer and possibly a touch slower. It runs in a a few seconds behind the final album version which is also boosted by Paul Cooper's organ. The brilliant 'Cut Me Deep' is also more fragile than its final incarnation, which makes it a fascinating listen. It's a minute shorter and undoubtedly a lot of work was put into creating the finished article. It's such a shame that it was never released as a single as it would have been massive. The third new track here is simply entitled 'Ballad' and this eventually saw light of day as 'Soul Station' on Another Age. The session track is quite lovely with gently chiming guitars, vocal harmonies and Shepherd in good voice. It's longer and a tiny notch faster than the final version, with a guitar intro that was eventually dropped and an extra chorus at the end. Again it lacks the organ of the album version, but it sounds purer in its simpler form. The final track here is an oldie, a reworking of the early Creation single 'Where The Traffic Goes' which sounds excellent if shorn of a little of its original rawness. These are terrific releases and well worth getting hold of. There have only been a limited amount pressed, so don't miss out. You can snap them up here.

Tren Go! Sound System & Ornamental - Assessment

Dirty Filthy Records / Pink Tank Records

Released: 5th March 2021
The latest offering from Dirty Filthy Records is an interesting collaboration between Tren Go! Sound System and Ornamental. TGSS is the solo project of 10,000 Russos' Pedro Pedana who describes his offerings as "guitar, loop and fx driven one-man-band psychedelia." He has been recording music under that pseudonym for fourteen years now but here he combines with Sidney Jaffe, the singer and drummer of psychedelic rock bands Burnpilot and Arcane Allies, but who uses his solo Assessment project to release music inspired by Detroit Techno and synthesizer greats such as Tangerine Dream. The result is a collection of four songs, stretching to some thirty-eight minutes, that are both vibrant and positive, just what is needed as we begin to emerge from the unimagined hell that was 2020. Understandably, a lot of music produced last year was dark and pessimistic as it mirrored the mood of a world under siege, so the opening salvo here, 'Assessment', is like a injection of speed into a zopiclone world, dragging you from your slumbers. Flickering into conciousness, the synths burst out and bounce happily along as hypnotic rhythms charge off at a rapid pace. Guitars flash by, space surfing atop the most thrilling cosmic waves to complete this truly fine adventure. 'Meio Com Meio Sem' is the heaviest track here with weightily fuzzed guitars draped over a rising and falling bassline. Even as the guitars occasionally stretch, it remains far from the darkness that often accompanies such an approach. It's curiously hypnotic and soothing and surprisingly optimistic. 'Tuarengue Fever' treads lightly on a gentle drone with a positive bassline leading the way to the accompaniment of pushed back tribal drumming and dipping guitars. Flashes and whirls help fill eleven minutes that flash by in no time at all. The album closes with 'Space Race (Breaking The Atmosphere)' which is a burst of classic space rock which appears to be as enthralled by its surroundings as it is enthralling with some great rock drumming at its heart. All four songs on this collection are different which is a fine thing and all four step out positively; there's no shirking here. Assessment has been pressed in a run of 500 copies on opaque cream vinyl with 175 copies available from the Dirty Filthy Records' webshop. It marks a big step into the light, so don't be fooled by its relatively glum cover.

Smote - Bodkin

Weird Beard

Released: 12th March 2021
It's a quick return to Weird Beard for Daniel Foggin's solo enterprise, Smote, as it was only in November last year that the label released his debut recordings on a limited-run cassette. Smote only came into existence as the Cave Suns and Hermitage guitarist missed playing with his bandmates and friends so much during the lockdown that he began jamming with himself; the resultant sets of recordings saw him dodging the traumas of real life by immersing himself in a fantasy world untouched by restrictions and gloom. Questing and Portcullis had a lightness of touch and a mellow feel that allowed the listener to escape with him into imagined landscapes and the response to that release was so positive that the label have been quick to follow it up with a full vinyl release for these five new songs that range from four minutes to near-on twelve. Bodkin pretty much follows the same path as it predecessors; the music, again largely built on light drones, has an almost mediæval feel to it and this is underscored by the titles of songs such as 'Motte' and 'Bodkin' itself, traditionally an arrow head from the Middle Ages. Despite that militaristic imagery, the music here is not hugely confrontational. 'Psolstice' (a psych solstice?) is atmospheric and spiritual with chanted vocals greeting the sun as guitars chatter and flutes waver. It builds in strength as the sun rises, infused by its warming strength. 'Fohrt' is the shortest track here, ringing with Middle Eastern influences, with plaintive flutes echoing the melody. Its mildly jagged edges offer some roughness but the memory of them is smoothed away when 'Moninna' opens gently with its guitars lapping at a pretty descending bassline that is looped though the whole eight minutes. Drum metal is tapped and synths whisper as you surrender to its soft embrace. 'Motte' stretches to an epic twelve minutes with flutes dancing around a robust rhythm that fills the track with self-belief and strength. Wordless chants emphasise its power as does the brief burst of grating guitars that soar into a fleeting call of triumph. The whole world Foggin creates is one of assurance and confidence. It celebrates its own rectitude and not for a minute is there any room for weakness or vacillation. The closing track 'Bodkin' is the most off-centre. It rings with power with intermittant crashes breaking over a heavy drone. Is this the consequence of any rebellion, the bodkins flying as the motte is stormed? Or is it a just a threat? There is no hint of anarchy in what has come before so maybe this is a stern warning rather than a messy consequence. One things is for certain, no rebellion can hope to disturb the balance of this land; it stands beyond the reach of threat and doubt. As usual with Weird Beard, the pressing is limited to 250 copies and they will fly out so be quick to get your orders in. Bodkin has been pressed on frosted clear vinyl with red blob and splatter effect, with the first sixty copies coming with an exclusive art postcard. It looks fantastic and you can snap it up here.

David Bowie - Something In The Air (Live Paris 99)

Parlophone

Released: 12th March 2021
The penultimate release in the Brilliant Live Adventures series from Parlophone is a fifteen-track collection from Paris in 1999 that features twelve previously unreleased recordings along with three tracks that were used as b-sides for singles taken from the Hours album. The day of the show (14th October) was a momentous one for Bowie as that afternoon he had been awarded the Commandeurs of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest artistic honour that France can bestow. The captured performance at the Elysée Montmartre was one of only seven full shows played to promote Hours and for this limited run of gigs Bowie dug deep into his back catalogue to make them particularly memorable. One of the tracks included is 'Can’t Help Thinking About Me' which had been released in 1966 and hadn't been performed live for over thirty years, while other songs tackled after prolonged absences include 'Word On A Wing' from Station To Station (twenty-three years) and 'Drive-In Saturday' from Aladdin Sane (twenty-five years). From the new album Bowie features 'Thursday's Child', 'Survive', 'Seven and 'The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell', with 'Something In The Air' given its first-ever live outing. The show opens with just Bowie and pianist Mike Garson performing 'Life On Mars?'. It's an interesting new take on the song which undoubtedly works well as an appetiser before the show proper gets underway. It's good to hear Bowie make a mistake with the lyrics; it always adds to a live album when not everything flows perfectly. Hours is our favourite post-1980 Bowie album and the tracks sound great; as always the recording is of high quality though the overall package could have been improved. There's a nice heavy matt board gatefold sleeve, but no inner sleeves, no accompanying liner notes, and a mistake on the track listing on both the cover and the labels. The vinyl is heavyweight, but there is no download code, which is poor. A bit more time and effort could surely have been expended. "I'm singing all the tough ones," Bowie complains before 'Word On A Wing' and though he has a decent stab at it, the arrangement is a little lumpy for such a delicate song. The awful 'China Girl' from Let's Dance is in there, as well as a fair take on the brilliant 'Always Crashing In The Same Car' from Low. The backing vocals in 'Drive-In Saturday' (Aladdin Sane) are very West End and Bowie can't help chuckling at them, while 'Changes' (Hunky Dory) is treated with the respect it deserves and sounds all the better for its minimal accompaniment. Lodger's 'Repetition' is remarkably powerful and even 'I Can't Read' from Tin Machine doesn't spoil the mood. "Somebody's got to be stubborn around here," Bowie states beforehand. "You'll like this one!" He then teases the audience by drifting into 'The Man Who Sold The World' before finally resuming course. The evening ends with 'Rebel Rebel' from Diamond Dogs, a familiar live favourite, which is one that never appears to alter with the times. Of course, there will be virtually no hope of getting hold of a physical copy of this album a day after its release, but if you have any interest in Bowie then it's definitely worth a listen on a streaming site, being the first time much of this has been available.

Beauty Hunters - Animal Magmatism

Weird Beard

Released: 26th March 2021
Put briefly on the backburner due to pressing problems, this was intended to be Weird Beard's first vinyl release of 2021, but now takes second place following the recent Smote album. Keeping up with their proud tradition of releasing music that reflects every shade of the psych spectrum, Animal Magmatism is an all-synth workout by the Seattle-based sound and image guerrillas Beauty Hunters. For the grunge fans among us, this trio features Mudhoney bassist Guy Maddison (on synthesizers) as well as Sean Hollowell (synthesizers) and Curt Buchberger (projections). Mudhoney were one of the pioneers of the grunge scene, perhaps the first band to bring real success to the Sub Pop label, and a huge influence to many. It was around the turn of the millennium that Maddison replaced original bassist Matt Lukin in their line-up and this marked a new beginning for the band where they moved away from their traditional garage sound into more familar rock territory, yet opening themselves up to experimentation with synths, horns and the gentler influences of psychedelia. Animal Magmatism, the second album from Beauty Hunters, takes this progression a whole world further as it builds synth soundscapes that could be the soundtrack to a particularly complex Sci Fi epic. It treads paths previously walked by Eno, Fripp, Kraftwerk and Throbbing Gristle, yet is not afraid to push out in new directions. Described by themselves as "a sound and image collage driven by analogue synths" this description captures well the mood of the music which harkens back to the days when post-punk intersected with early industrial and German experimentalism. There are two tracks here, the eighteen-minute 'Olympic Ring Of Fire' and the twenty-two minutes of 'This Place In Time', yet you could easily blend one into the other as this a coherent piece of work. The edgy 'Olympic Ring Of Fire' pulses erratically, making your heart beat in all directions, while other synths drill holes and warn of approaching menace. The sustained notes are as threatening as the unexplained tapping and the tension is built up by the addition of ever more questioning and strident layers. 'This Place In Time' begins where its predecessor left off, rebuilding the mood with a prolonged drone which is brushed with strobe-like flickering. The assault moves from your heart to your brain as it is hit by jagged shards that cut, or weighty cushions of sound that smother. It's all very unsettling and tense and pretty inconclusive. Was civilisation saved or not? We don't really care as we are still hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. Weird Beard are releasing Animal Magmatism in a limited run of 250 copies with the first fifty containing a highly collectable blotter art rendition of the sleeve artwork, printed by offset lithography on chlorine-free paper using vegetable inks. There are no pre-orders on this one, so you will need to jump in quickly here when the release finally gets the nod.

TBWNIAS - Unsemble

Cardinal Fuzz

Released: 29th March 2021
Music of the Pandemic. It's going to go down in history as a particular genre and a bloody fascinating one at that. It was so interesting last year to see how the albums being released reflected the times: many of them were downbeat, doomy and pessimistic; some were wildly escapist and fantastic; a few bands even carried on as if nothing was happening. TBWNIAS's Unsemble will undoubtedly come to be considered as one of the more esoteric offerings from the crisis; a collection of sounds that reflect beautifully the destruction wrought on society by the COVID plague, emerging as disjointed and harrowing as would any album recorded in six different locations by different members of the band as they went into hiding between March and April 2020. The first four tracks here (all are titled 'Unsemble') stem from a seven minute drum onslaught recorded by John Westhaver on an Android phone to which each member of the band added their own contributions with whatever recording equipment they could lay their hands on. The resultant 'Unsemble I' was then remixed by guitarist Bill Guerrero into 'Unsemble II', 'Unsemble III' and 'Unsemble IV'. The initial recording and the drum track were then sent to Christopher Laramee (Wasted Cathedral) to be used as a basis for an original piece of work for collaboration, and from this emerged 'Unsemble V'. The result is an intriguing collision of ideas in sound. The opening salvo of 'Unsemble I' is smothered freeform jazz, desperately attempting to emerge into the light and pretty much failing. It's a bloody marvellous eight minutes for those of us who like some disconnection and deconstruction in our listening, and the other four tracks are as gloriously incoherent. 'Unsemble II' is disassembled rock, interpersed with random dialogue that gives it a human face despite all of the voices being overwhelmed by waves of crushing sound. The guitars that howl at the end are particularly effective. 'Unsemble III' beats away blankly until it knocks itself unconcious, while 'Unsemble IV' grinds, rattles and mourns whilst it hammers at your brain. 'Unsemble V' is particularly disturbing as dystopian commentaries are overlaid on music that is twisted into random waves of threatening sound. This is great work. You won't find a better half an hour that serves as a dairy for the year of lockdown. After appearing as a cassette last year on Misophonia, a vinyl version has now been produced by Cardinal Fuzz in a limited run of just 150 in a heavy matt card sleeve. Move heaven and earth to get hold of one.

La Era De Acuario - La Era De Acuario

Necio Records

Released: 2nd April 2021
Necio Records continue to uncover exciting new psych bands from South America, with their latest release being the debut album from La Era De Acuario (The Age Of Aquarius). Formed only recently in 2018 by Ximena Gama and Sabú Avilés, the Mexican band released the Lunar EP in 2019 and now follow it up with an eight-track album, stretching to some thirty-five minutes. Indeed, there are only four new tracks here as all four of the EP's songs are included, but seeing as only one hundred CDs were ever issued of that release, there are not going to be many folks who can claim to own them! As the name suggests, this is a band whose focus is very much on the 1960s, yet thankfully their music not only reflects the sparkling psych pop of that era, but it is infused with more contemporary neo-pysch instrumentation that firms up the sound and gives the songs a more powerful edge. There are two cover versions: 'Hippie Hippie Hourrah' which was originally recorded by French legend Jacques Dutronc, and 'Fotografia' which is a take on Status Quo's 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men'. These are both straightforward and respectful versions of those songs and though it could have all sounded a bit kitsch and retro, it is the twist of the female vocals and the quality of the songs themselves that help prevent this. They still sound great. Some of the band's own songs have a similar groove, but the light lysergic sparkles are beefed up by rocking guitars that add both muscle and drive. This transforms the opener 'Om Ganesh' into something quite spectacular. It shudders, glints and wobbles like a marshmallow kaleidoscope but the glam-edged guitars lift it to a different sphere where it shows it can more than hold its ground. 'Etéreo' shimmers with eastern promise in a psychedelic shower, while 'Lunar' runs round harmonic bends. It's the non-EP songs that carry a heavier psych feel, with 'Agujero Negro' ('Black Hole') sounding edgy and threatening with its combination of space rock zooms and castanets quite unique. 'Bailando En El Mar' ('Dancing In The Sea') adds space effects to its weighty organ riffs and serious guitars, while 'Orgón' is a heavier trip with a meaty bass running up against droning organs and scything guitars. It is still very 1960s but popped rather than pop. La Era De Acuario has been pressed in an attractive clear vinyl with a purple splatter effect and is available through the label's Bandcamp page. There are only 300 copies so get in quickly.

White Canyon & The 5th Dimension - Spectral Illusion

Necio Records

Released: 2nd April 2021
One of the highlights of last year was Necio giving a vinyl release to the eponymous debut album by White Canyon & The 5th Dimension which was one of those rare records that hit all of the right spots on a first listen. The Brazilian duo of Gabriela Zaith and Léo Gudan had been together for a relatively short period of time but succeeded in creating music with a shimmering beauty that wrapped itself around you and forced you to surrender to its hypnotic charms. Less than two years on from recording that debut, White Canyon return with their second album, Spectral Illusion, and, as the cover suggests, there is a darker, more mystical edge to the music though it loses none of the refinement and melodic grace of its predecessor. There is a classical feel to this collection; everything is done so beautifully it is difficult not to surrender to it even if your musical preference is for the raw rather than the refined. The duo here submerge you into shadowy soundscapes where spirits dance and faded memories whisper. White Canyon are consummate guides as they smooth over the sharp peaks of the highs and cushion the deepest drops to the lows. Opening with the title track, there is a nice Latin feel to the guitars as we enter the gently distorted world of dream psych. Vocals breathe and guitars mesmerise as the song builds in power; it really is an attractive thing and its six-and-a-half minutes seem barely enough. 'Sensitive Fate' is built on a rumbling drone where chiming guitars frame a smooth female vocal that is delivered in a dreamy shoegaze style, while 'Endless Sea' fittingly stretches over nine minutes with its gentle double vocal hinting at eternity as the music swells and pulses. There's power in the words, though they barely break out of the background. They bring reassurance to the unknown and reveal beauty in the darkness that lies all around. The closing track 'Oroboros' is a stunner with elegiac voices hiding behind some beautifully sombre guitar work to create moments that are achingly pretty. It sheds its skin in a clever ending that works so much better than an ill-considered fade out. There are more forceful moments. 'Seven Kingdoms' grows from gentle beginnings to lay down some impressive guitar sounds, 'Electric Ghost' hammers gently at your senses while guitars chatter all around, and 'Look Up To The Sky' with its weaving flutes and chimes hints at 1960s' psych. It's probably the odd one out here, but is not too far removed to seem like an intrusion. Spectral Illusion is available to download from the band's Bandcamp page, and look out for the forthcoming vinyl release on Necio Records.
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