Stereocilia - Crystalline

Drone Rock Records

Released: 5th April 2023
Stereocilia is Bristol-based guitarist and composer John Scott who uses his guitar, analogue synths and looping techniques to create intriguing gatherings of layered sound. He has built an enviable reputation over the past decade, sharing a stage with such luminaries as Gnod, White Hills and Acid Mothers Temple, while continuing to add to his impressive range of recorded works which began with the debut album, Mumurations, in 2013. His association with Drone Rock Records commenced with his third album, 2017's Hive Mind, while his latest offering Crystalline is his first since 2019's The Silence That Follows. There are eight tracks here over forty-six minutes and they are truly affecting. Sometimes appearing half-formed and sometimes immutable, they scratch at your conciousness with such an intensity that it becomes difficult to shake them out of your brain. 'Catalyst' is staggeringly effective as it digs ever more deeply, 'Low' rumbles disturbingly, while the epic album closer, 'Our Future Died In Your Past' presents crystalline fragility and unerring sadness. Everything here is touching, though much appears barely assembled. It is insufficient to state that Scott builds atmospheric sounds; he is the master of creating music that treads the line between reality and alternate space. At times fragile, at others impossibly dense the mood he creates is elusive and impossible to pin down. We are drawn through light and shadow, affirmation and rejection; everything is in the balance. Stereocilia are unique in refusing to be defined and compartmentalised. This is the sound of nothing and everything. It really is remarkable. Crystalline is limited to just 200 copies, pressed on white vinyl with blue and purple splatter, and is available from the Drone Rock website.

The Black Delta Movement - Recovery Effects

Fuzz Club

Released: 14th April 2023
It's five years now since the release of the debut album by Matt Burr and The Black Delta Movement so the band's return to action is both welcome and long overdue. It is pretty much all change here as for these new recordings Burr drafted in Little Barrie to provide the musical backing, with Barrie Cadogan adding guitars to Burr's own, Lewis Wharton providing the bass and Tony Coote the drums. The quartet were further reinforced by the addition of producer, Malcolm Catto (The Heliocentrics), who plays keyboards and co-wrote two of the songs as well as sitting at the controls. Burr describes the record as "a love letter to the band and all the emotions that come with it,” and it was certainly created from adversity. Finding himself without his former bandmates following the release of their highly-praised 2018 debut Preservation, the pandemic-induced lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021 gave him plenty of time for reflection and the breathing space to fine tune new songs. After entering the studio in late 2021 the band cut the basic tracks live with Catto providing invaluable input into the shape and direction of the sound. The result is a bit of a rarity, a clean, often punchy, garage rock album with a variety of moods and, importanty, enough space to allow the music to breath. Opener 'Fourth Pass Over The Graveyard' is terrific; it grooves beautifully with searching guitars dipping in and out before joining together to lay down a fabulously hazy outro. 'Zip-Tie' is more drugged, a bit of a cross between The Doors (a common reference point here) and the Velvet Underground, while 'Always Home' is melodic, gently warped rock with shimmering guitars. 'No Road To Go' has a title The Doors could have used and the second half doodling with organ, dancing drums and chattering guitars throws out memories of that band's desert adventures. 'Hiding In The Tall Grass' mirrors these influences and there is clearly no escaping the 1960s' vibe on this record. The beauty is that it doesn't sound retro; there is an appealing freshness and a modern psych edge to the music that makes it intrinsically appealing. The music is probably most effective when it captures a groove, with 'Photograph' again clean and funky, though the slow burning title track is simple and moving, and closer 'Sleeping Pill' a nicely-shaped adventure that builds in scope and energy and ends in messy guitars. A decent album this, one that hangs together well despite its different styles and one that warrants playing on repeat.

The Telescopes - Hungry Audio Tapes

Glass Modern

Released: 22nd April 2023
It might have sneaked in under the radar but one of the highlights of this year's RSD inventory was the first vinyl appearance of The Hungry Audio Tapes by The Telescopes, a collection from 2006 that had only previously been available on CD and which was originally the joining together of two different sets of music. The Winter EP had been released by Hungry Audio in 2004 and had sold out very quickly. Instead of repressing that seven-inch single to meet demand, the label suggested merging it with Stephen Lawrie's latest compositions to form a mini LP and, having listened to the two sets of songs together, Lawrie acknowledged they complemented each other and the project was given the go-ahead. As with the band's previous album, #4, the tracks were a mixture of the pre-written and the improvised with Lawrie commenting, "I just got into a looser way of writing, moving back and forth around improvisations. I still wrote more traditional songs during that period, some of the songs on Stone Tape and As Light Return were written then, but my interest at the time lay in almost disguising the songs, as ghosts or half-heard imaginings, to the point where they became completely imaginary. It’s a different way of listening that is present in a lot of good music of all genres." The greatest measure of this progression was the inclusion of a new version of the band's most famous song, 'The Perfect Needle', with the original words and melody buried so deep you have to strain to recognise them. Though deliberately insubstantial, the whole sound of The Hungry Audio Tapes is purposeful and assured. While Lawrie may be experimenting, there is a clear plan in his approach: it being all about mechanics to the fore and melody to the back as the songs are submerged into the depths from which their cries can barely be heard. This forces the listener to dive deep into the music to gather whatever they can grab hold of, whether the barest hint of a voice or a suffocated chord. On the surface floats the debris: the noises, whirrs and beats that battle to drag your attention away from the treasures below. It’s cleverly done and ruthlessly effective. Like most releases by The Telescopes this is an essential listen so be quick to grab one of the limited run albums, available in milky clear vinyl.

BRMC - Live At Levitation

The Reverberation Appreciation Society

Released: 22nd April 2023
The latest addition to the RAS's Live at Levitation series must be one of the best looking records we have ever seen, pressed on what is apparently clear vinyl with black, blue and yellow splatter, it really is a picture, and the music it contains is no slouch either. The sound quality on these live albums is generally pretty good, certainly good enough that you can enjoy the music rather than try to get your brain to accept a new definition of alright, and it captures the atmosphere of a live event very well. In an organic way. There's nothing perfect and nothing clean. The recording was made in Texas in 2013 as the band were touring to promote their new album, Spectre At The Feast. As such, three of the eight tracks included are from that album, with another three taken from the band's 2001 eponymous debut and one each from 2003's Take Them On, On Your Own and 2010's Beat The Devil's Tattoo. With more than twenty years on the clock, it is easy to forget just how punky and powerful BRMC sounded in their early days and the debut single 'Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll' is a storming anthem that will get you singing along, while the same era's 'Spread Your Love' is a fine mess of garage blues. The concert opens with 'Red Eyes And Tears' which is dark and stabbing and intense. As the band progressed they added some guile to their craft and 'Beat The Devil's Tattoo' remains one of the best songs they have ever recorded: hypnotic and brimming with mystical corruption. In contrast, the contemporary 'Lose Yourself' is more rock, more melody and less venom. Something for everyone. We don't pretend that live albums are essential buys, but they capture a time and place and hold a certain fascination. This pressing has been restricted to 2,150 copies, so there should still be a few around and if you are stuck indoors missing the live experience then grab hold of a copy, crank it up loud, drink far too much, shut your eyes and shout incomprehensibly between every song. It will be just like you're there.

Cazayoux - Cazayoux

Weird Beard / Echodelick / Worst Bassist/ Ramble / We Here & Now

Released: 28th April 2023
There hasn't been a lot of psych-funk to enjoy in recent times, but Weird Beard have decided to get their groove on with the release of this new album from Cazayoux which will have you jumping around the room whether you have any stuff to strut or otherwise. Cazayoux are a multinational band based in Austin, Texas, founded by drummer Forest Cazayoux, with members hailing from the United States, Mexico, Japan and West Africa. It didn't take the band long to become live favourites following their inception in 2020, irresistable as they are to all followers of psychedelic funk, afro-beat, and jazz, and it was no surprise when they started to attract a lot of positive feedback for their unique, high-energy shows that quickly got large crowds moving. There are seven songs here, over thirty-five minutes, which are brim-full of exploding horns, fluttering woodwind, yammering guitars, funky bass, flashing rhythms and scintillating keyboards. At times Cazayoux sound like a funky big band, full of life and positivity, and with a fusion of influences which range from Latin to African to plain rock and roll. 'Change Your Mind' encapsulates all of these in a magic five and a half minutes – clearly the highlight of the collection. Like many other releases these days Cazayoux arrives as a result of a collaboration between a multitude of labels, namely Weird Beard (UK), Echodelick (US), Ramble Records (AUS), We Here & Now (CAN) and Worst Bassist Records (EU). With only 300 copies being pressed in total (on black vinyl) it barely needs to be said that you will have to get in quickly.

Autobahn - Ecstasy Of Ruin

Tough Love

Released: 28th April 2023
After awarding The Moral Crossing second place in our album of the year list in 2017 we didn't expect Autobahn to disappear off the face of the earth, but that it is how things appeared to be until the recent announcement that the band were actually alive and kicking and about to release their third album on the splendid Tough Love label some five-and-a-half years later. Despite their name, Autobahn do not indulge in Germanic-influenced electro, but rather produce a grimy, grinding post-punk sound, more than a little infused with dark gothic rumblings as befits a band from that genre's heartland in Leeds. The Moral Crossing was a self-produced album recorded in a studio the inexperienced band had pieced together with their own hands before undertaking an intense learning process to figure out exactly how to shape a record. They learnt well and managed to produce an album with the exact mood they were hoping to capture, an impressive amalgam of the lost sounds and voices of the industrial north. Moving forward, Autobahn have shrunk to a four-piece as impressive drummer Liam Hilton has departed and has been replaced by drum machines and sample-based percussion. This move has called for an adjustment in approach, though there is no escape from the band's roots, Autobahn even managing to sound darker, bleaker and more cutting than ever. At times the music is brutal. The guitars that attack 'Silver' don't take any quarter as they rake over the cold beat, and things don't get any sweeter. 'Acid Child' has the feel of a dangerous and dirty Sisters of Mercy before it falls into chaos, while 'Fields Of Blood' is simply glorious; it grinds and slices and rushes and is so broken it's a wonder they managed to capture it on vinyl. It's the undoubted highlight of this album but there is plenty more to love as guitars both sparkle and scrape and keyboards crush. The relentless rhythm and heavy bass give 'Vanity' a mighty foundation for a cutting vocal which breaks through the moaning guitars, while on 'Post-History' and 'Class War' the band unite in punk-like choruses of protest. It's significant that these are songs that sandwich all of the others; it gives the record an air of a manifesto, shouting at the state of the world while showing a unity of purpose. It adds a glimmer of positivity, a belief that life can overcome darkness. Or find hope in despair, ecstasy in ruin. You won't hear many records that have this much power at their heart and though there have been some excellent albums released in the opening half of this year, none of them can stand up to this. Mighty.

Helicon - God Intentions

Fuzz Club

Released: 28th April 2023
If you have ever seen them playing live or listened to one of their records, it will be obvious to you that Helicon are a class above your everyday psych band. When we try to pin down just why this is, the points that keep coming to mind are ambition and attention to detail. That may sound prosaic, but it counts for a hell of a lot. Where many bands are content to play a guitar, Helicon want to play with the stars and they won't believe that such dreams are out of reach. God Intentions is simply Helicon proving themselves right. There is such scope to this band's vision that it really does take your breath away; Helicon take the concept of an album to new heights and they know that the way to do this is to put everything in its right place at the right time. Fortunately, this appears to be easy for them; they have the knowledge and the talent to capture their dreams. Fuzz Club call this album "cinematic". That's too cold for us; that's dressing up somebody else's vision. This is all-encompassing and inspirational. What Helicon have done here is create a psych opera full of astonishing musical movements with vocals added where appropriate. Guitarist and vocalist John-Paul Hughes says that the album is "a journey through regret, redemption and resurrection," full of the band's familiar darkness, but carrying a fresh and uplifting positivity. Inspired by the story of his brother Gary, JP believes the band manage to capture everything they set out to do. They couldn't have aimed higher.

This is an opera in two acts, with a vocal introducing each. The short prelude, 'Dark Matter' provides an initial ominous rumble before the brilliant 'Flume' sets the scene, carried along by singing keyboards and some fabulous bass. This really is an immense tune, imbued with power but remaining approachable and even catchy. The vocal is unhurried even when guitars begin to flail and scream and though it sounds like a million people are playing, there is an overriding sense of harmony. To build as big a sound as possible, Helicon brought in some friends to aid them, including The Rhona MacFarlane String Quartet, Lavinia Blackwall (Trembling Bells), Mark O’Donnell (Tomorrow Syndicate), Sotho Houle (French avant-garde violinist) and Anna McCracken (vocals). They help create fantastic layers of sound that range from uplifting to spiritual and assured to euphoric. It's underneath those layers that Helicon do the dirty work, adding a sense of doubt and struggle with grating guitars, concerned keyboards and scattered beats. The music then works on two levels, both lifting you up and grounding you. In other words it pulls you apart. This is so evident on 'Château H' which opens with tenative steps before some assured guitar steps through a whirl of background noise. As strings play out an eastern-inspired dance there is no escaping the undercurrent that seeps through as sitars chime and choirs chant through 'Heliconia' and brings a rough edge to the gentle 'Disobey'.

Side two opens with the buried vocals of 'Zen Roller' which offers up some traditional rock riffs as the maelstrom lurks, with 'Whiplash' probably the most torn song here, wanting to be sweeter than it is, though the band keep it nasty. These guitars slice through you, the drums knock you about roughly, and any more than two minutes and there would have been blood. The beautifully constructed title track hints at redemption, though even then ends with a murky threat, and its piano seeps into 'Last Tango In Glasgow' where a resigned vocal drips sorrow. 'Tae The Moon' is the longest track here, built between clusters of rock riffs and starting again after three minutes when it appeared to have run out of steam. Despite its power it grows ever more celebratory until celebration breaks down and turns to confusion as the world falls apart. Everything drips into the postlude 'Starlounger' which we imagine is where the band are going to sit after producing an album like this.

The original vinyl copies of this sold out quickly but there is a new pressing available now at Fuzz Club, all dressed in the amazing cover by San Francisco-based collage artist Nina Theda Black. Just bloody buy this. The work that has gone into it is astonishing and the result of that work equally so. It deserves recognition.

Adama - Shanti


Apodemus - Atlas

Weird Beard

Released: 5th May 2023


The latest additions to the Weird Beard limited-run cassette collection feature two bands who will be familiar to you if you have been gathering these from the beginning. Adama's Ganga was the second tape ever in the series with the Östersund collective stating that their intent was to create music in the psychedelic field that "reached back to the very roots of what the genre symbolised ... capturing both the burning essense of gloomy psychedelic darkness, and the intense kaleidoscopic colours of the northern lights." The music it contained had a spiritual edge, being both atmospheric and unhurried, occasionally even wistful, though there was just enough grating energy to prevent you from floating away. With Shanti, the band's sound has become even more ethereal and ambient with instrumental washes interspersed with more conventional songs. 'Free Now' is psychedelic pop that passes by prettily, while 'Colorless Motions' is a shimmering delicacy. 'Blood On My Bed' is probably the most insistent moment here, with the vocals draped over what will certainly become a disco beat when it grows up. 'Dreams' is hymnal as church organs add solemnity, while 'Fields Of Eternity' builds layers of benignity as it touches you. Vocally, the band are reinforced by Ida Mellström whose voice adds a new depth. Of the instrumental pieces, 'Lost In A Dream' drones gently, 'Inom' is a thoughtful piano movement, while the title track is nine minutes of soft, unbroken dreams.

The self-titled collection from Apodemus opened the second series of these tapes, and is now followed by the six-track, hour-long, Atlas, which is altogether a different beast from Shanti. The band's music is nothing but insistent and the determined juggernaut of sound you are presented with here ably complements the band's earlier recordings. All instrumental, these songs charge along at pace with space guitars blazing and big beats running at their heels. At times their sonic noodling throws up memories of The Sweet and their heavy glam rock (especially the drumming), but at other moments there is a more psychedelic edge to their sound. There is certainly not a lot of subtlety here; any quiet moments are quickly blasted away by powerful bursts of energy and the whole has the listener rocking backwards with its sheer force.

Both Shanti and Atlas are available in the usual tiny numbers and will disappear from the WB shop in a blink of an eye, so good luck hunting.

Dead Sea Apes - Rewilding

Cardinal Fuzz / Feeding Tube Records

Released: 5th May 2023
Now into their fourteenth year as a band, Dead Sea Apes have become a yardstick on the psych scene, always setting the bar high for others and looking to grow and evolve. This is their first non-collaboration since the formidable Night Lands in 2020 and it sees the band revert to a power trio of Brett Savage (guitar), Jack Toker (bass) and Chris Hardman (drums). The songs are shorter and punchier than before, though they still average seven minutes each, with the six stretching over some forty-two minutes. They also rock hard, rejecting the unsettling ambience of Night Lands and replacing it with an immense barrage of sound that will shake you to the bones. Guitars howl and wail as the rhythm section creates a devastating momentum that drags the tracks along. Each one thunders by so powerfully that time appears to compress and become irrelevant. Only the title track swerves from the course, but this is so insidiously twisted that it will simply finish you off in a different way. The guitars snake poisonously through a relentless beat and crash of metal which seems to hint that nature reasserting its dominance is not a situation mankind wants to witness. It's a killer tune that rises above everything else here through its angled perspective, though closer 'Dead Zone' sways between threat and chaos and ends in a maelstrom of despair. Opener 'Denialist' begins with a storm of guitars before marching inexorably through any argument. It's immensely strong, and refuses to change course while Savage's guitar reaches into places it has no right to be. 'Parasite Rex' is almost a contemptuous aside that spits and scratches, while 'The Sleep Room' develops into a riot and 'Truther' takes up the mantle, throwing its weight about with total belief in its cause. This is a bruising record that will stamp its authority on you and it is one that will be incredibly difficult not to put on repeat when it has sunk into your brain. It has been pressed in a small run of 750 on black vinyl by Cardinal Fuzz (UK/Europe) and Feeding Tube Records (USA). They may well have got rid of their copies by now but you can still find it available in the best record shops.

The Telescopes - Of Tomorrow


Released: 19th May 2023
Very few albums have knocked us as stupid as The Telescopes' fifth outing for Tapete has done. While on the face of it, it is the band's most straightforward album for years, closer inspection reveals it to be far more complicated than it first appears. It may be dressed as a lamb but underneath it is something far more dangerous and complicated: the human condition exposed. When The Jesus & Mary Chain released 'Never Understand' we all gathered in the Herne Bay record shop (as was normal for us) to give it a listen. Universally we commented on how commercial it was. OK, if you listen to the record today it is almost anti-commercial, a screaming cacophony of noise, but there are aspects of the song that ARE far more commercial than 'Upside Down' had been. It had more melody and a tighter construction. Of Tomorrow is the same. At first listen it appears to be more conventional and approachable than much of Stephen Lawrie's work. He even sings on the album, and sings very nicely, but this record is not conventional, not approachable and not easy listening. This album is painful as it lives in two worlds, and that really lies at the centre of all of Lawrie's work. It is about belonging: the need to belong, the desire to belong and the battle to discover just how he does belong in an environment that can be bewildering, dangerous and frustrating. Perhaps these thoughts have been intensified as in his personal life Lawrie has reached the point where he is as happy as he ever has been, yet joy and contentment fit uneasily into the world he observes so intently. Very few artists in history have sought for answers as diligently as Lawrie. He has left no stone unturned, no frequency untuned and no barrier unbroken in his efforts to see beyond the realm of natural vision. Yet has he found answers or just more questions?

As the album opens with 'Butterfly' it immediately creates a disturbing mood with its keyboards coming straight from the David Lynch book of fairground music. It reminds us of a lungfish crawling out of the water, not knowing if it is fish or fowl, living in two places, both challenging and embracing convention. And Lawrie mirrors this mood by muttering "Oh lover, we'll thrive agin, come alive again. Oh baby, we'll hit the sky. Butterfly". Lawrie here has written, performed, arranged and produced all seven of these songs, stretching over thirty-eight minutes, and the music definitely evolves, becoming ever so gently more aware of a new possibilities. The drums are implacable, ruthlessly and sharply keeping time, though the bass has more freedom to wander while keyboards drone gently and guitars explore. 'Everything Belongs' has a stab at the eternal question and comes up with the only answer there could be, "Everything belongs no more or less than it should. Being part of being, here's where you belong." The understanding brings an almost joyful refrain, "What a feeling", which leads on to 'Where Do We Begin?" which attempts to work out a new path lit by this understanding. "We're digging a hole and where does it end?" Unfortunately, it only leads to the same old questions, "Where does it end? Where do we begin? Oh-oh". Lawrie will clearly never find any solutions and will puzzle the secrets of existence to the end, yet he takes the opportunity to bask in the light he finds in love as it is the only place that finds him at ease. "Come my love, away with me, where only lovers go," he declares in 'Only Lovers Know' where the Lynchian keyboards return for a country number where Lawrie sounds like a wasted Johnny Cash.

There are only three tracks on side two where '(The Other Side)' has a more normal psych feel and from where the album takes its name. There are some lovely wailing guitars as lyrically Lawrie searches for a place "on the other side of tomorrow" where everything will make sense and you become "universal beyond control". And is this a certainty? The parentheses in the song title speak volumes. After this brief exultation, the pace is straightened again for 'Under Starlight' which is a quite brilliant love song, "I have walked through fires / I have walked with giants / I have walked away from liars / I have walked in silence / Just to walk beside you." It's a lovely thing when life's experiences lead us to really understand goodness when we find it, and to hold on to it as "tomorrow comes despite us". The song is straightforward and simple and exposed which is the perfect frame for wisdom. The closer 'Down By The Sea' is the longest track here, stretching to almost nine minutes, and is gently hypnotic. Lawrie will take his treasure to the place where it makes most sense. In 2021's Songs Of Love And Revolution he stated, "There is no shore in this life, there is only the wave." Now he begs, "Be here with me. Here in our place, down by the sea. Here in a place within dreams. Here in an inner place, living dreams".

There are very few artists who broadcast their humanity as starkly as Stephen Lawrie and force you to answer questions you didn't even know existed. Musically and lyrically, time and time again, he produces startling work that seemingly has no peers and no influences. In a world where many fine bands are challenging perception you will struggle to find a path he hasn't trod. The Telescopes isn't about finding answers, but at least making every effort to look for them and that's a rarity. Long may his search continue.

Isolated Gate - Universe In Reverse


Released: 26th May 2023
We know there are plenty of our readers who are big fans of Pale Saints and so would be interested in this latest project by that band's former singer/bassist Ian Masters. Isolated Gate sees Masters working with electronica maestro Tim Koch (Central Processing Unit) and Universe In Reverse is their first full length offering following the release of two EPs in 2022. Lockdown made remote working a little less unusual, though it still seems strange that Masters and Koch have never been in the same room together despite their collaborations. Being introduced by a mutual friend, the duo discovered they shared a love for psychedelia and the belief they should be making music free from the shackles of convention. Anybody who loved Pale Saints will acknowledge that they teased the boundaries of sound, but Universe In Reverse pushes that to a new extreme with the duo laying down some seriously disturbed tones, all surrounded by conventional grooves, soulful vocals and ludicrously addictive harmonies. They do this with such success that this record could breeze past you without you quite realising how bloody weird it really is. Eight tracks stretching over forty-two minutes is almost as classic as it comes, but that's where the classicism ends. Opener 'As The Great Brain Pulsates' sees Masters' vocal half-buried under a collage of random noises from gently floating drones to synth pulses and flashes. It's wildly psychedelic, but the gentle nature of Masters' voice ties it very much to reality, giving the whole the mood of being shaken from a mildly disturbing dream. There's a harder edge to 'Confusion Is Bliss' which stabs as well as soothes, and the portentously named 'Mankind Will Disappear' is a half-buried march with gentle curves; Masters sounds particularly fine and the melody is entrancing. 'Marsupial Helix' is detached from everything, a floating mass that drifts by like a Japanese whisper. 'If We're Lucky Monday May Never Come' flickers at your consciousness like distorted radio tunings, and 'I Am The Window' throws digressive sounds at a sweet vocal in a sort of infinite monkeys are given infinite synthesizers way. 'The Man Who Froze Himself For Fun' is gentle and hymnal with a light feedback buzz, while closer 'Delight Ingot Thon Thoth' is again buried under softly distorting waves and sci-fi narration. Universe In Reverse has been released in a limited run of 100 CD and vinyl copies and is available from the duo's Bandcamp page. It really is a fascinating experiment in sound where the songs triumph despite all attempts to undermine their very definition. A record that has been played with a lot, and one that is absolutely absorbing.

The Metamorph - The Man On The 99th Floor

Werra Foxma

Released: 31st May 2023
When the impressive electronica label Werra Foxma took its first steps into the world of vinyl in 2021 the record they chose as their pathfinder was Return To Splendour, an EP by The Metamorph, better known as Harlech's Gavin Brick. This was a pretty thing, evoking the tranquility of summer evenings spent relaxing with nothing to do but to watch the sun gently dropping to the horizon. Some eighteen months later, Brick's first full length album for the label has a distinctly different mood. In truth, you would expect a record named after a JG Ballard short story about an ingenious murder to be a little on the dark side, and Brick doesn't disappoint. With his minimalist approach The Metamorph never uses twenty notes when one will do; here he turns from minimalist to brutalist with each of these notes registering like a slab of concrete dropping on you from a height. His music is unyielding, and it is impossible not to be impressed by his ambition as he builds soundscapes that enclose you from all sides. Given the starkness of the mood, the use of guitar on three of the tracks is a masterstroke, with Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) adding a different dimension with his playing, not easing the tension to any great degree but ushering it out in different directions so that it grasps as well as punches. 'The Precipice' is marvellously affecting, full of spidery malice, while 'Baroque Duel' appears to be just that, between keyboards and guitar. 'Scandroids' sees Rimbaud flying above the reverbed, relentless pulses as if scraping the surface of a blackened heart. Dark stuff and quite riveting. The highlight here is one of its shortest moments. 'Terminal Dream' is icily bleak and most aptly titled and will leave you afraid of falling asleep at night. The album closes with its lightest moment, 'Miniature Portrait', which is full of humanity and regret, echoing Kraftwerk or Bowie's 'Art Decade'. Perhaps it's a last glance down at the road, remembering the life that used to exist. It's certainly a contrast to the ten dystopian tales so far told and the only glimpse of redemption or warmth on this record. Mostly it displays a cruel efficiency that would have appealed to Ballard, or his dark allies Vonnegut and Le Guin. If they wrote in sound, it would sound like this.

The Boo Radleys - Eight

BooSTR Records

Released: 6th June 2023
It has only taken The Boo Radleys a year to follow up their comeback album Keep On With Falling which is quite an impressive achievement considering the amount of gigs they played in between. We were interested to see in which direction the band would head after they had been on the road for a while and once again experienced the highs and lows of performing, promoting and recording, and the overall feeling is that they must have been having the time of their lives. Eight (simply their eighth album) sounds as joyful and embracing as it is possible for any collection to be, and this could only have been recorded by a band on a high. Where KOWF shied away from the more experimental and abrasive side of some of the band's earlier work, Eight appears to take a further step away from that sound, full as it is of horns, rhumba and reggae rhythms, and drenched with close harmonies, smiles and sunshine. In some ways this is a shame and some grating guitars and structural madness would be welcome, but as with its predecessor this is a record difficult to criticise as there really aren't any weak points and there are so many things to love. The album is CD size, with thirteen tracks stretching to fifty minutes, and it should really be trimmed by a couple of numbers, but again it would be difficult to pick anything that deserves to be cut. It's gentle, sometimes soft, and even the poignant lyrics are bathed in a warm glow of melody that soothes the hurt; the guitar on 'Sometimes I Sleep' is just gorgeous, brushing away the sadness which is no easy task as Sice sings, "Sometimes I sleep; it gets me through the weeks. Sometimes I count the days I've managed not to weep." Lyrically, there is darkness, but it is framed so lightly its weight is negated. The fantastic and ostensibly gloomy 'Hollow' sees Sice stretch his voice over a neat guitar line in the chorus and it brings back so many memories of The Boos' past that it is helplessly uplifting. It's a highlight, a song that shifts in mood and pace, as does the fabulous 'Dust' where guitars screech feedback through the chorus while the rest of world is soothed by orchestral lullabies. 'Swift's Requiem' is another top moment, a positive song about death, "Even though you're gone, your life's not through. You live again when we all think of you." You could pick a hundred moments here where something grabs your attention. There are intricacies in build and sound which will still be tapping at your brain when you are twenty plays through. It's pointless listening to this once or twice and assuming you have its number; there are depths to this record that will you will discover on multiple listens and the effort will be well worth your while. And take your time to digest what is being said. It's no easy task to paint over the dark bits of life and turn them into shades, but The Boo Radleys have this gift. Happy sad.

No Choice - And Still Some Cannot See

Weird Beard

Released: 16th June 2023
The great thing about Weird Beard is that they are ever looking to add a new facet to their catalogue and you can never be sure of what exactly is going to appear next. Over the years they have painted every shade on the psychedelic spectrum and now emerge with something a little more lurid and not too psych, a bright pink, all-out anarcho-punk album from veterans No Choice. This is the band's fourth studio album in forty years and the continuation of a catalogue that began with the 1983 release of 'Sadist Dream', a seven-inch single on Riot City Records. And Still Some Cannot See appears not so hot on the heels of Thru It, No Choice's last album which came out back in 2012, and what we have here are ten songs over thirty-four minutes with no ideological restrictions over timings which is good to see. No Choice manage to be abrasive yet melodic and there are some ridiculous hooks that just grab hold of your brain and shake you about. 'You And Your Mirror' is an instant grab, with drums falling over themselves and guitars squealing, rather than racing along with the passionate vocals. Such moments contrast nicely with the rushes of 'Sites and Sounds' and 'Counting The Cost Of Nothing' which means the album loses none of its threat, yet reveals a sharp intelligence behind the songs. The stuttering 'Icons' is a highlight as it dances through your brain, dripping indignation, while 'Be Good To Yourself And Others' is thoughtful and wears its heart on its sleeve. Some of the songs and ideas were conceived before Covid though most after, and the government understandably gets a mention or two, as does addiction, narcissism, eugenics, racism, greed and failure. This is what would be expected from No Choice who have remarked that the album may lack some positivity. This is not the case. The positive note here is that bands who care are still around to call for a better society, a better government and a better land. It's the passion and the belief in this record that is uplifting and inspiring. It's also important that this collection of dynamite tracks is not stuck in any musical timewarp: something of a rarity for its genre. Be good to yourself and grab a copy off the Beard while they are still around. Available now from the WB Bandcamp.
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