Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Fuchsia - See Emily Play / Bike (Ltd. 7")

Barrett re-visited on a very limited 7" single. SOLD OUT!

It feels odd to be posting about a single that's not released until next month but has already sold out fo mail-order on pre-orders alone, but it's such a great single I felt I ought to mention it. The chances of getting hold of a copy may be slim (unless you want to pay over the odds on Ebay or Discogs), but hey, that's market forces for you! Check out the excerpt on the video below and read the FdM statement regarding the single. There's also a link to sign up to the label's mailing list so you won't miss out on any future intstant collectables.

Here's the official word from Fruits de Mer...

"Fuchsia's version of 'See Emily Play' was recorded specifically for the Fruits de Mer 'A Band For All Seasons' set; we got lots of great feedback and it was picked up on BBC 6Music.

Tony and the band were due to fly over from Australia to play the 18th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus festival in Wales and Tony went back into the studio to record 'Bike' for a festival-exclusive 5" lathe-cut; the lockdown blew that idea out the window so we offered the very limited run of lathe-cuts we'd had produced (about 50 copies) by mail order to FdM club members.

They were massively oversubscribed and a couple of copies have already found their way onto eBay, selling for £150-£250 a time. We decided the recordings deserved to be more than eBay fodder so we're putting them out in November on 7" vinyl with a total run of 400 copes worldwide.

We're sold out at FdM Towers on members club pre-orders alone, but you're welcome to email to join a waiting-list as we might get a few extra from the pressing plant - or please go to Shiny Beast, who are our European distributors and handle non-uk orders as they will get their own supply, direct from the plant."


If you're not already on the FdM mailing-list, click HERE

'See Emily Play' b/w 'Bike' is released on November 9th.

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.


Wednesday, 14 October 2020

The Superstars - Metamorphosis + Finale (Ltd. 7")

Prog's not dead! Keyboard-led heavy sounds at 33rpm.

Whatever your favoured format, recorded sound is a beautiful thing. Thanks to that technological advancement we have access to, for all eternity, great political speeches, hisorical news bulletins, along with the recorded works of The Beatles, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Sex Pistols, and Pinky & Perky. It's a vast library and like the universe itself continues to expand.

One small but very welcome addition to the sonic archives is this forthcoming 7" single on the Fruits de Mer label. The Superstars are an Italian band, currently working on their debut LP which is set for release next year. Judging by this taster 7" single it will be one to look out for. 'Metamorphosis' is included here in studio form and (on the B-side) as a live version. Fans of '70 prog-rock will find this very much up their street - keyboard-led and with an emphasis that leans more on rock than it does on prog. Heavy Hammond, virtuoso guitars, and a propulsive rhythym section combine to take you on an almost six minute journey complete topped with an intriguing spoken words addressing destruction and creation.

'Finale' has more of a synthy space rock feel to it, somewhat more experimental with textures and sounds and showcases a different side to the band that will no doubt be further explored on next year's debut LP. Recorded sound - ever-expanding and endlessly evolving. Keep listening folks!

'Metamorphosis' is on sale from the Fruits de Mer website from November 9th.

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.


Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Brian Bordello - Boris Johnson Massacre

Lockdowns are tough eh! Well maybe for you, but I've used the opportunity to visit Durham and Barnard Castle. Roads were quiet as fuck! Who woulda thought?!

Anyhow while there's no gigs to or record shops to go to, it's great to find that many of my favourite music makers are still being creative and kicking against the pricks. Brian Bordello (he's in a group called The Bordellos don't you know!) is one top fella – a maverick music maker of the highest order, independently-minded, speaker of truth, gently subversive, and quite often laugh-out-loud funny. He got in touch with me over the weekend to draw attention to a couple of new songs. Highly current and topical. Quickly recorded and with almost immediate release thanks to Australian label Metal Postcard Records. 'Boris Johnson Massacre' will resonate with anyone who's found our government's response to the Covid-1 crisis sadly lacking. Boot-lickers and flag-shaggers might disapprove but they can fuckin' do one!

Here are some words from Brian about the tracks...

“I only recorded it on Tuesday and Metal Postcard Records were kind enough to release it straight away so I had no time for the pre-release nonsense. It continues with my solo adventures in the art of no-fi with this gentle attack on the ineptitude of our current Prime Minister, recorded on one track of my old tape four-track and in such a way it will only come out of one speaker, to capture the magic of me listening to pop music in my youth on a tiny transistor radio, a song where Jake Thackray, Daniel Johnson and Ray Davies influence takes hold . I hope you enjoy it.”

The Rabies - 'Adderall Girl' b/w 'You're the Glue' (Ltd. 7")

I try not to focus on any particular musical genre on this blog, though regular readers, (if indeed there are any!), will know that pysch, garage, baroque-pop, acid-folk and soul are perennially pleasing for me. But Harmonic Distortion is really a place where anything goes. It's been a mindset that has broadened my horizons immensely. Be it Nordic jazz, Italian doom metal or experimental electronica, I try and cover it all. 

When I'm in need of an emotional lift there's one type of music that never fails to lift the spirits. It's a genre I've not written about much on here but then proportional representation is not really my thing. I'm talking about powerpop. Highly melodic songs, played in a forthright manner by a traditional four-piece band set up. Big on harmonies, guitar hooks, propulsive bass and drums. It's music that puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Recent powerpop artists whose work I've enjoyed include Nick Piunti and ANC.

The heyday for powerpop was in the late '70s into the early '80s, often blurring the boundaries with punk and new-wave. A time when short sharp songs, were back in fashion along with skinny ties. The economy of '60s Brit-invasion sounds had started to sound fresh and inspirational again after the bloated excess of mid-'70s rock. I don't claim to be an expert on first-wave powerpop, far from it, so it's always a pleasure to be pointed towards fine examples. I was recently contacted through my Twitter page by George Faulkner, owner of Bolt Records and member of a New York-based band called The Rabies, who were active in the early '80s. The four original members have recently reconvened to record a new single which I highly recommend. 'Adderall Girl' b/w 'You're The Glue' is available as a traditional 7” vinyl single or as a stream/download. It hits the spot. 'Adderall Girl' is a pure distillation of boy-meets-girl rock 'n' roll goodness. Its equally enjoyable B-side 'You're the Glue' clocks in at under two minutes but does what it has to do. A smash and grab lesson in melodic sensibility. Here's a little background on the band from George himself...

Not the Canadian pop Rabies, Czech hardcore Rabies, nor Chinese speed metal Rabies;  this is the Reagan-era New Yorkers, 38 years after their last single. They get called punk but were more new wave in '81 & '82. 

The Rabies released two 7” records in 1982 – (My Girl’s a) Hologram b/w Criminal, and a four-song EP called Labor Day – and between 1981 and 1983 they played anywhere they could in the Northeast from CBGBs to the college circuit (and everywhere in-between). It was a great run, but met a predictable demise. By '83 everything in music had changed and The Rabies followed a different path. But, in 2020 they decided to get back together and record a third single.

The four original Rabies - Torin, Kevin, George, and John - recorded this new single in Brooklyn with Producer Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Ramones, Lemonheads, Sebadoh). In talking about this new project, Rabies guitarist and songwriter Torin Alter said it best: “We made a left turn after Hologram and followed that wrong turn for 38 years. Until now.”

For more info: boltrecordsinfo at

The Rabies, 2020
The Rabies, 1982

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Stephen EvEns - Dustbin Man

Timely tribute to society's key workers. A taster from Stephen Evens' forthcoming full-length LP.

We're hearing a lot about key workers at the moment. That concept along with “fabric of society” and “all in it together” has come to define the age. Celebrating so-called ordinary workers will no doubt be claimed by the Tories as their idea. Anyone slightly attuned to the politics of the past decade will know how bogus and ridiculous that claim is. 'Dustbin Man' is a track by Stephen Evens, released today but recorded well before the coronavirus crisis. What remarkable empathy, sympathy and prescience it shows. Not only that but it damn well rocks too! A post-punk bovver-boy groove, heavy bass, and shrewdly astute lyrics. Stephen very kindly told us about how the song came to be -

"I’ve worked as a dustman, really. When I was a student. I lasted 2 days. I was rubbish.

When I wrote this song, quite while back, there’s no way in hell I could have predicted what was going to occur. But it looks like I have. I always knew I was special.

It’s a celebration of all those people who do the jobs you can’t and/or don’t want to do. They deserve you love and respect and a bloody great big pay rise."

The song is taken from Stephen EvEns' forthcoming album Employee Of The Month (to be released on Onomatopoeia Records on June 5th). More about that fine album to follow nearer the release date. 

Stephen also plays Online Balcony Festival this weekend, on Saturday April 11th, kick-off 1pm, to raise money for NHS Charities Together – he will be performing at 3:30pm on the GigSlutz stage for more info see here -

Play the track loud and raise a glass to your fellow workers. Underpaid maybe, but dignified and valued now as never before. Respect.

Click here for Stephen EvEns on Twitter.
Click here for Stephen EvEns on Facebook.
Click here for Onomatopoeia Records.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Various - A Band For All Seasons (4CD)

Hugely enojoyable 4CD set of psych covers.

The promo of this set landed through my letterbox a few weeks back in the era now described as “pre-lockdown”. Since then the world appears to have shifted on its axis and we have this new strange reality. Given the gravity of the situation, what seemed important before the coronavirus crisis hit can now seem trivial, and it's tempting to put music in that box, along with football, luxury food items, and whether or not ITV is able to film Coronation Street. But, there's a counter argument - culture helps us make sense of the world, it keeps us sane, occupied, and entertained. That vital role should not be underestimated. Before the lockdown, I enjoyed listening to this set very much on my daily commute. Since then it's become something of a talisman to help me get through each day. I think you would enjoy it too.

Anyway I'll shut up about the coronavirus now and tell you about this compilation. Fruits de Mer released an amazing triple vinyl compilation a couple of years back. The Three Seasons featured 27 tracks, all covers of songs from the years 1967, 1968 and 1969. It sold out almost instantly so if you want a copy, be prepared to pay an inflated price via Discogs. The good news is that FdM released an expanded 4CD edition at the end of March under the title A Band For All Seasons: Songs From the Four Seasons of Love 1966-1969. The collection features a mind-blowing 61 tracks, many from HD-approved acts such as Moon Goose, Crystal Jacqueline, Schizo Fun Addict, Fuschia,Jack Ellister, Anton Barbeau and Nathan Hall. But that's just the tip of this iceberg.

Expect to hear well known psych-pop tracks getting a modern makeover along with lesser known gems that will open up new avenues of discovery. If, like myself you missed out on the pychedelic era by being born too late, this compilation will take you down musical rabbit-holes you never even knew existed and be introduced to a globe-spanning array of current bands who are not only enthralled by music from the late-'60s but use it as a starting point to take their own music to new and exciting places. Also included is a 24 page booklet to aid your enlightenment. Joy doesn't even begin to describe. A quick look at the FdM website tells me it's now sold out via their mail-order, though you should hopefully be able to track down a copy via secondary sellers.

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.

Click over the jump below to see the full tracklisting.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Datura4 - West Coast Highway Cosmic

 Australian boogie rockers head for the open road on their fourth LP.

You don't miss the water till the well runs dry. So goes the old adage. As we're all currently under lockdown, the idea of travel, heading out on to the open road for adventure, purposeful travel and general fun suddenly seems like a privilege from a lost era. Fitting then that my listening album of choice this week has been the newie by Australian rockers Datura4. West Coast Highway Cosmic is a celebration of travel, rendered in old school boogie blues rock. The kind of album that sounds best when played loud. What better way to annoy your neighbours!

I greatly enjoyed last year's Blessed Is The Boogie. This latest release follows on almost a year to the day, and represents an extension and expansion of the band's trademark boogie rock sound, in no small part due to the input of new members Bob Patient (keys) and Howie Smallman (harmonica). For a little history of the band and to find out what sparked bandleader Dom Mariani's love of rock music you can look back to my review for Blessed Is The Boogie.

West Coast Highway Cosmic finds our heroes stretching out musically building on their firm solid rock foundations. The opening title track begins with scene-setting Hammond chords and swooping Moog notes before the guitars and drums kick in to hurtle you off at high speed down the cosmic highway. The track was written in honour of the studios the band have used over the course of their recording career, situated 124 miles apart along the south western Australian coast.

'Wolfman Woogie' is a no-nonsense brooding blues rock track, enhanced by Smallman's harmonica. The in-the-pocket groove dropping away to leave space for Mariani's riffs. Also worth checking for its heavy Hammond solo and wah-wah guitar workout. In fact the whole record has guitar heroics that will have bedroom players the world over wide-eyed in wonderment. The cleverly layered parts perfected by Mariani over a lifetime playing shows around his home turf since his youth.

The new textures brought by new keyboardist Bob Patient allow the band to build on the sound of their previous outings, but make no mistake this is a rock record with a capital R, one informed by the heavy rock gods of the 1970s – Sabbath, Zep, Lizzy, Purple, ZZ Top. 'You're The Only One' takes the pace down a little, a low-key swampy blues number redolent of the Mississipi Delta. There are those that say rock is long dead. On the evidence here don't believe it.

Click here for Datura4 on Twitter.
Click here for Datura4 on Facebook.
Click here for Alive Records.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Squire - Get Ready To Go!


First wave mod-punk rarities from the brothers Meynell.

There's a cliché within music biz circles that there's always a folk revival going on, whatever mainstream musical fashions may be. In these days of global, internet-connected scenes you could say the same applies for any musical genre. Especially Mod. That said, the first Mod revival at the tail-end of the 1970s stands out as something quite special. The Jam of course led the pack, and The Who's Quadrophenia movie helped attune youthful ears to the sounds of of the previous decade.

One band at the centre of all this was Squire, who released a couple of classic singles on Arista, and were one of the scene's must-see live acts. I have to admit to being unaware of the band before hearing Get Ready To Go!, a newly released album that rounds up their early demos. The bulk of the tracks on Get Ready To Go! Were recorded on a TEAC 4 track machine by brothers Anthony and Kevin Meynell to present to the other band members in order for them to learn the songs. What strikes most about the album, apart from the sharp 'n' savvy musical moves is how it captures the tail-end of the '70s. Youthful energy had been fired up by punk rock but now bristled against the realities of everyday life. Find work, find that love doesn't always work out, find that Radio One still playlists the blandest of the bland.

The demos on this collection address these concerns with wit, brio, and an infectious energy. It's modernist for sure but mixed with punk and pop. Catchy three minute songs laced with to-the-point lyrics. 'Lets Have Some Fun' mixes hope and cynicism at the promise of summer. 'Tesco Music' pokes fun at the corporate music business. There are songs about the lure of big cities, the pains of finding work and your place in the world. The cumulative effect is akin to a teenage diary in song form.

A good indicator of any band's worth is often their staying power, and I'm pleased to report that four decades on Squire remain active today. In addition to the demos are some 1978 mixes and a new song 'I'm 21', which casts an eye back over the ensuing decades.The band clocked up over 30 gigs in 2019. An impressive number whichever way you look at it. It's well worth connecting with their social media channels to find where and when you can see the band play live.

May 3rd – Round Chapel, London
May 22nd – Nochtwache,Hamburg, Germany
May 23rd – ZOSCH, Berlin, Germany

Click here for Squire's website.
Click here for Squire on Twitter.
Click here for Squire on Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Extradition Order – American Prometheus

A history lesson about J Robert Oppenheimer couched in angular post-punk grooves.

For the rest of the country Warrington's main claim to fame is rugby league. Musically however it tends to be overlooked by its bigger neighbours Liverpool and Manchester. As is often the case if you did a little deeper our smaller towns have much to offer culturally and Warrington is no exception. One group with roots in the woolyback heartlands is Extradition Order. Their latest album is being co-released by no less than five record labels. Those labels are Gare Du Nord, Blang, Jezus, Helen Llewellyn Product 19, and I Blame The Parents Records. That in itself is an interesting scenario – let's hope they split the costs and don't argue about who did or didn't order a starter.

Anyway back to the record. A concept album based on the life of physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, taking in US politics and the creation of the A-bomb. If that all sounds a little highbrow and decidedly “non sexy”, fear not. The band are adept at laying down tough and angular post rock grooves, laced with slashing guitars and punchy brass, with lyrics that bring the subject matter to life. While it's educational, fun is still firmly on the agenda. Imagine if the Manic Street Preachers had grown up listening to Television, B52s, The Pop Group, Gang of Four and PIL, as opposed to hair metal bands. That's the mix of history lesson and passionate musical shapes we have here. The band describe American Prometheus as “a Northern Soul album about the atomic bomb”. That may be a stretch but it's a good chat-up line. There's a lack of finger-snapping Motown-beats but that's more than compensated by the record's cliché free romp, ragged sonic landscapes, thought-provoking lyrics and passionately delivered vocals.

So what do we learn of Oppenheimer? If like me you wished you'd paid more attention to history lessons at school, you'll welcome the insights gained via American Prometheus. Oppenheimer was instrumental in the Manhattan Project, a research and development project which resulted in the world's first nuclear bombs, later to be dropped on Hiroshima. Oppenheimer was also nominated for a Nobel Prize three times but was never awarded one, most likely down to his later public opposition against the bomb. There was also his complicated love life and left-wing politics. These aspects of his life are also touched upon, making for an album that's as much about the man's complicated inner life as it is about his legacy.

American Prometheus is dedicated to founder member and bass player Nick Boardman who sadly passed away in 2018. He leaves behind some fine musical contributions on this uniquely informative and highly enjoyable album.

Click here for Extradition Order's website.
Click here for Extradition Order on Twitter.
Click here for Extradition Order on Facebook.
Clickhere for Gare Du Nord Records.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Silent Fires - Forests

Norwegian/Italian quartet explore yearning and spirituality on their debut album.

In today's world there's much that makes one despair – climate change, the rise of racism, and the depressing state of politics in Britain and America in particular. For all that it is possible to hold onto some long-term optimism. One thing that gives me hope for the future is young creative people, their global outlook, desire for change, and their wealth of talent and ability to empathise.

Forests is manifestation of all of this. It's the debut album by Silent Fires, a quartet of talented musicians from the European improvised music scene. The album is a deep exploration of spirituality, quietly passionate and ripe with complicated emotions. Subtle piano chords, a hint of ancient folk melodies and pure-voiced vocals conjure up a soundscape that encourage the listener to delve into empathy and introspection.

The words of Maya Angelou, René Guénon, William Butler Yeats, and band leader Alessandro Sgobbio are set to music, as are extracts from the Bible and the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians. These are given voice by vocalist Karoline Wallace. Her bell-like tones lending the words a heavenly reverence, sometimes singing, sometimes spoken and occasionally whispered. While the music has for the most part a calm, glacial stillness, it sometimes swells into small storms, spurred by subtle notes and pushes from all three musicians.

For their live appearances Silent Fires are joined by contemporary dancer Synne Garvik. The band held some release shows for Forests in Norway and France around the album's release, late last year. There are dates to follow later this month on Norway, Germany, Portugal, and Italy. More details below.

Silent Fires are -
Karoline Wallace – vocals
Hilde Marie Holsen – trumpet, effects
Håkon Aase – violin, percussion
Alessandro Sgobbio - piano

Forests Release Shows
12th February – Nasjonal Jazzscene, Oslo, Norway
20th February – B-Flat Jazz Club, Berlin, Germany
22nd February – Pora-Jazz, Porto, Portugal
23rd February - Casa Da Paes, Milan, Italy
1st March – Langhus, Kirke, Langhus, Norway

Click here for Silent Fires' website.
Click here for Silent Fires on Twitter.
Click here for Silent Fires on Facebook.
Click here for Silent Fires on Instagram.
Click here for AMP Music & Records.

Matthew Sweet - Blue Sky On Mars / In Reverse

(This review first appeared in issue #88 of Shindig! magazine.)

Two albums of guitar-driven powerpop brought together as a double CD set. 1997's Blue Sky On Mars and 1999's In Reverse both have a sound and production that stands up well today. Sweet was one of the musicians in the '90s who studied Big Star, Brum-beat and Brit-invasion as core texts, making it his mission to re-present melody and melancholia to an audience raised on grunge. That said the contemporaneous influence of Nirvana pushes through on 'Where You Get Love' and 'Hollow'.

The use of synths gives Blue Sky On Mars a lightly futuristic edge and In Reverse is fleshed out with some nice touches – the trumpet peels on 'Millennium Blues' for one. Sweet's ability to write earworm tunes is in evidence throughout as is his sensitivity with the themes of fractured friendship and love's ever-elusive nature. The lack of filler and tracks to cash ratio here makes this a particularly sweet deal.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Telekinesis - Effluxion

(This review first appeared in issue #88 of Shindig! magazine.)

An album title to increase your knowledge, (Latin for flow, in case you were wondering), Effluxion is the fifth full-length offering from Seattle-based musician Michael Benjamin Lerner, fresh from a stint as touring keyboard player with Teenage Fanclub. The album was self-produced over two years in the basement of his home, with Lerner taking on all instrumental duties. He's songwriter who knows how to knock out a decent hook-laden tune or ten. Be it the quiet/loud dynamics of 'Set A Course', the piano-led pop of 'How Do I Get Rid Of Sunlight?', or the playfully dancing bassline on 'Cut The Quick' the attention is focused on songcraft with properly pleasing choruses and twist-laden mid-eights throughout.

Containing only ten taut tracks Effluxion may be a short listen, but after spending 32 minutes in its company the world will seem a brighter, more hopeful place. As Teenage Fanclub would say – ain't that enough?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Monks Road Social - Down The Willows

(This review first appeared in issue #88 of Shindig! magazine.)

This genre-shifting epic takes in downbeat soul, folk, jazz, dub and blues over its 18 tracks. It's the first full-length offering from this ever-evolving collective, is curated by chief Blow Monkey Dr. Robert, and shows a remarkable cohesion aided by Ben Trigg's string arrangements and a core band featuring Matt Deighton and Mick Talbot along with members of Galliano.

Its most sublime moments include 'Lost In Rasa' which echoes the troubled soul of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, and 'Still Got A Lot To Learn' where guest vocalist Nev Cottee employs his baritone voice in a spot of self-reflection. Also of note is a lushly arranged re-recording of Dr. Robert's 1994 track 'The Coming Of Grace'. Added to this is the wealth of new vocal talent with Pat Dam Smyth standing out with 'So Long Soho', a Kinks-style homage to a disappearing London, along with Samantha Whates' dub-folk track 'Three Miles Left'.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Le SuperHomard - MeadowLanePark

(This review first appeared in issue #88 of Shindig! magazine.)

There's a strain of cinematic French music that feeds head and heart, and is fixed on the central tenets of style and sophistication. You can join the dots from Jean Claude Vannier to Air through to its latest progenitors - Le SuperHomard, an Avignon-based quintet led by Christophe Vaillant.

MeadowLanePark is the group's first full-length LP following 2015's mini-album The Maple Key and recent release The Pomegranate EP. Recorded during closed hours in the music shop where Vaillant works, the results are a joy, ebbing through sunshine pop, breezy electro, and gently playful psychedelia. The group make good use of the instruments to hand with vintage synths, harpsichords and strings making up the sonic palette. The band's key influences (Stereolab, Saint Etienne, Broadcast) can be heard but their sense of self wins out. Whether it's the evocative instrumental 'In The Park' or the electronic textures of 'SDVB', MeadowLanePark is one of this years early gems.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Emmeluth's Amoeba - Chimaera

Second album of adventurous free-jazz from Scandinavian quartet!

Without wishing to patronise our Scandinavian friends it's true to say most music fans in the UK would be hard-pushed to name any currently active Danish musicians. Sadly, that's more a reflection of Britain's blinkered outlook than it is on Denmark's musical reputation. What they probably don't know is that Scandinavia has an increasing reputation for producing world-class improvised jazz. Recent releases on label's such as Hubro being just the tip of this particular iceberg.

Signe Emmeluth is an example of a Danish musician breaking new ground at the coal-face of modern jazz. The young alto saxophonist, now based in Oslo, leads a quartet, collectively known as Emmeluth's Amoeba whose debut album, Polyp, was released in 2018. They've recently released a follow up Chimaera, which takes their music into new, ever more adventurous territory. Let's be clear, this is not music for the faint-hearted, but if you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll no doubt relish the journey this album will take you on.

Opening track 'Squid Circles' begins with Signe's lone saxophone making short sharp runs and closely clustered notes, gradually becoming more melodic and languid before the rest of the band begin to join in, adding discordant piano chords and scattering drums. The result may be disorientating but is equally hypnotic and intriguing once you allow yourself to be drawn in.

'AB' allows Emmeluth to push the saxophone to its limits with high pitched squeals designed to disorientate. The track evolves into a cartoonish romp that owes as much to Scott Bradley as it does to exponents of free-jazz. At the six-minute mark piano, guitar and saxophone conspire to conjure the image of a claustrophobic city soundscape - traffic rumbles, sirens wail and people rush about their business. It's quickly shifting mutations such as these that characterise Chimaera. At times cerebral, other times calm and soothing, occasionally humorous, but only ever a few notes away from being primal, even brutal and violent.

'Velvet' sees the quartet move into more impressionistic areas, mixing Debussy-eque textures with tinkling cocktail jazz piano. For all its calm, soothing feel there still lurks an ominous darkness just under the surface. These tensions and dynamics are further explored as the album branches out into more audacious and chaotic forms, free of cliché and full of honest, raw expressive emotion. It all makes for a brave and challenging record from a refreshingly uncompromising artist.

Emmeluth's Amoeba are -

Signe Emmeluth – alto saxophone and compositions
Christian Balvig – piano
Karl Bjorå – guitar
Ole Mofjell – drums

Click here for Øra Fonogram Records.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Routes – Tune Out, Switch Off, Drop In

Still where it's at! Japan-based psych-garage trio hit the spot!

I still remember the epiphany of catching the garage-rock bug as a teenager. While the majority of my fellow sixth-formers were content to have Dire Straights' Brothers In Arms on constant repeat on the common room cassette deck, (or worse - Pink Floyd's The Wall), I was introduced by my pals Chris and Sean to the Nuggets and Pebbles compilations along with a raft of reissues on Bam Caruso Records. Here was music that was punky, soulful, and psychedelic. A rich seam to explore. It was colourful and fun, which went against the grain of being a goth, seemingly the only other rebellious strain available to to us sheltered young pups in our small market town. I was smitten, and remain so to this day.

The Routes' latest album, their seventh, which came out just before Christmas, is a reminder of just how valuable that epiphany has been in forming my musical tastes and outlook, and also highlights that while the basic sonic template of psychedelic garage-rock may not have shifted much over the years, if you have something to say it will serve you well. And if you're a savvy enough musician you can add touches of other genres – R&B, surf-rock, folk-rock, Krautrock, shoegaze, even house or techno. It's no surprise that shape-shifting bands such as Primal Scream started out as a bowl-haircutted garage band with a pointy shoes, paisley shirts and a tambourine player.

The Routes are a trio led by Chris Jack – a Scottish born musician now resident In Hita City, Japan. While they too have a fondness for paisley shirts, skinny jeans, and teardrop-shaped guitars played through vintage fuzz pedals, there is more going on in their music than the retro bubble letters of their band logo would suggest. Within these grooves are experimental sonic threads – be it the tremolo and drone of album opener 'The Ricochet', 'Up and Down' with its shimmering layered guitars, or the title track's chromatic chord progression in the chorus recalling the works of Syd Barrett.

The album's more traditional garage-rock tracks such as 'The King Of Loose Ends' and 'You Cried Wolf' are equally thrilling, full of riffs, hooks, snarly vocals and ear-splitting trebly guitar solos. Dick Dale gets channelled on surfy number 'Split Personality', and there's plenty punkish attitude throughout with nods to artists such as Loop, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Spaceman 3, The Seeds and 13th Floor elevators. Tune Out, Switch Off, Drop In is no pure retro trip though, it lyrically addresses current global concerns, pointing out that as a species we are without doubt regressing rather than progressing. The CD version comes with an extra four taken from the Driving Round In Circles EP, which originally came out on Ghost Highway Recordings in 2018. Whether your musical first love is '60s garage-rock, '90s indie, or simply great guitar bands from any era, this is an album worthy of your attention. Switch on and tune in!

Click here for The Routes on Twitter.
Click here for The Routes on Facebook.
Click here for The Routes on Instagram.
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Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Stick In The Wheel - Against The Loathsome Beyond

Ancient and modern forces meet for a richly elegiac take on English folk.

As usual over winter I've ended up with a backlog of music to write about. Christmas, the usual bouts of family illness, work commitments and the shorter hours of daylight and resulting tiredness always seem to conspire against me. The result is less time and energy to devote to writing. So first an apology to the amazing musicians and labels that have sent me music recently. I have however had lots of great albums to listen to and absorb, this release by Stick In The Wheel being one brilliant example.

It's the band's second mixtape release, following on from 2018's This and The Memory of This. These mixtape releases are an opportunity for the core duo of Nicola Kearey and Ian Carter (EAN) to collaborate with guest players, either using their own material as a starting point, or remixing and adding to music created by the guest musicians. The duo also have two studio albums to their name – From Here (2018), and Follow Them True (2018). I confess to being unfamiliar with their previous work so this record marks my first encounter with Stick In The Wheel.

Their music is rooted in the melodies of traditional English folk music, but this is no backward yearning for car-less yesterday. Each track has a seam of of modern electronic music. Drones, strange beat-less pulses push each track into strange new territories. A strong melancholy permeates the album, which features appearances and collaborations with artists such as experimental folk guitarist C Joynes, Jack Sharp (Wolf People), and folk-punk outfit Cinder Well. Using mostly traditional material as their staring point the album contains versions 'Nine Herbs Charm', a 10th century spell translated from Old English, the 14th century alliterative poem 'Swarte Smiths, Smateryd With Smoke', and an improvised take on Child ballad 'Georgie'. Also highly recommended are the two bookending versions of 'Down In Yon Forest', which set the medieval pagan theme that permeates the whole album.

One thing about music is that it can compliment other things going on in your life, and chime perfectly with landscape, seasons, weather, and even the moods accompanied by your current reading habits. While enjoying the album over mid-winter I was simultaneously reading Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, his account of leaving his Gloucestershire village in the 1930s, working as a labourer in London, then walking through Spain, earning a living playing violin as he goes, at the outset of the Spanish Civil War. While the traditional music of Spain and Old England may not have too much in common there are parallels to be drawn and highlighted here. Ditto the respective mood of the nations. The sense of foreboding in Lee's book chimes with the timeless melancholy found throughout Against The Loathsome Beyond. Spain in the 1930s, along with contemporary Britain found themselves divided and with dark forces emboldened. Both countries possess a proud and stirring musical heritage, each infused with a passion that's celebratory yet full of warning. Against The Loathsome Beyond has been a strangely fitting accompaniment to Lee's book and one I highly recommend to readers of this humble blog.

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Click here for From Here Records.