Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Various - Postcards From The Deep (Flexi-Disc Box Set)

10 flexi-discs, 10 postcards, a poster and a CD, all housed in a clambox! 700 copies worldwide.

Fruits De Mer Records raise the bar once again. Following on from their box set of 7” singles, the ever eclectic and vinyl-friendly label have gone one step further in their desire to release music in a lavishly produced physical form. Their latest collection is a set of 10 flexi-discs, complete with postcards, a poster and a CD, all beautifully housed in a clambox.

Flexi-discs are evocative objects for those of us old enough to remember them as album tasters, music magazine freebies and fanclub-only specials. With new ones almost as rare as the proverbial rocking horse excrement, it's a pleasing and brave step for a label to put together a collection of the things. Equally impressive is tracking down a record plant that can manufacture them!

While flexi-discs will have serious audioheads and hi-fi enthusiasts hiding behind their 180g vinyl, the rest of us will be weighing them down with two-pence pieces, spinning them and enjoying the sounds. And good fun it is too. Playing these artefacts is in itself an act of time-travel, even more so when one considers the agreeably retro nature of the music.

To keep the hi-fi buffs happy a bonus CD is included that contains different versions of the flexi tracks. The music is as varied as you'd expect from FDM, and is an all covers affair showcasing the label's stylistic breadth, and ranges from surf, psych, progressive garage, and krautrock. With one foot in the past, each band manages to add some twist or spin to make you admire their take on the track as well as making you want to check out the original version.

My favourite of the 10 tracks is The Thanes' take on The Pretty Things' LSD, a track that will be familiar to many. Less familiar though no less enjoyable is Soul Fiction, a track released on South African Brigadiers label in 1968 by The Hippies, and one which borrows heavily from Soul Finger by The Bar-Kays. It's ably covered here by The Past Tense. Check out the video below to hear it on flexi-disc.

The question is if Fruits De Mer further investigate the alleyway of long lost formats, what will they have planned for 2015? Tape reels? 8-track cartridge? The smart money may just be on wax cylinders!

  1. The Luck Of Eden Hall – Psychotic Reaction (Count Five)
  2. The Loons – Celestial Empire (Dragonfly)
  3. The Crawlin' Hex – I'm a Living Sickness (Calico Wall)
  4. The Thanes – LSD (The Pretty Things)
  5. The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies – Time Machine (Satori)
  6. The Past Tense – Soul fiction (The Hippies)
  7. Schizo Fun Addict – Take A Heart (The Sorrows)
  8. Crystal Jacqueline – You Just Gotta Know My Mind (Dana Gillespie/Donovan)
  9. Astralasia – Brainticket (Brainticket)
  10. Icarus Peel – The Avengers Theme (Laurie Johnson)

Limited to 700 copies.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sonny Vincent & Spite - Spiteful

Class of '77 get together for some transatlantic punk-noir. Strap yourself in for the ride!

This latest outing for the New York punk veteran is a punk fan's wet dream, a fantasy collaboration that features backing and input from not only Rat Scabies of The Damned and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols, but also saxophone courtesy of Steve Mackay, sax player on The Stooges Fun House, and latter day touring member of said same band. That's mongrel pedigree for you right there! And one that bites!

For those unfamiliar with Sonny Vincent, he's a mix of sleazy seen-it-all private detective, punk romantic, and perhaps the true heir to Lou Reed as rock 'n' roll believer and champion of New York's artistic underbelly.

As leader of Testors, Sonny was a burning light of the NY punk movement, ripping it up at CBGBs back in the day. His spirit and soul remained undimmed to this day as this album more than demonstrates. Such is his standing in punk circles he was able to draft in the talents of Scabies, Matlock and Mackay.

It's a dream team band, one that effortlessly conjures up he speed and bite of London '77 punk and allies it with a New York art-punk lyrics. On top of that the saxophone lends the record a noir Romanticism. All cigarette smoke, dark alleys and burst water pipes. It's punk rock with a free-jazz squall.

Written and recorded quickly, Spiteful has a spirit and swagger that marks it out as one of the year's most surprising releases. Urgent and searching, frantic and wild, scuzzy and hungry, and definitely truer to the spirit of punk than the heritage circuit bands that make up the billing of today's punk festivals.

Though it's at odds with the music of the headphones-on, heads-down generation, this is fired up by a love of early rock 'n' roll and an outsider anti-hero stance. And is all the better for it. As such it could teach the young pups of today a thing or two.

Click here for more on the making of Spiteful.
Click here for more on Sonny Vincent.
Click here for Still Unbeatable Records.

Buffalo Killers - Fireball Of Sulk

It's the 7th studio album from Ohio's band of brothers. Still gloriously ragged but with added flavours.

It's good to know that in this era of one-album-wonders some bands are in it for the long haul. Hat's off then to Buffalo Killers, a bunch of long haired rootsy rockers from Ohio who are on the cusp of releasing their 7th studio album.

The band's previous albums have favoured a one ear to the past, denim-clad brand of southern rock that's big on vocal harmony and ragged guitar chime. While this latest album will undoubtedly please fans of their earlier records they seem to have found a renewed sense of purpose and are more confident in branching out stylistically.

While not quite outré enough to be the band's White Album, there's a remarkable breadth of styles here, from the grunge-informed Blankets On The Sun, through to the Beatle-esque Don't Cry To Me and the stoner rock styling of Marshmallow Mouth. Then there's the power pop meets country rock of Weird One and Something Else. A pairing that doesn't work on paper but hearing it is a delight.

Despite the diversity it's all pulled together by strong melodies and those trademark vocal harmonies that have characterised their output thus far. The CSN&Y influences are still intact, most notable on In A Number, but there are echoes of other acts, especially early '90s guitar bands such as Nirvana, The Posies, and Teenage Fanclub.

Fans of the band include The Black Keys and The Black Crowes, both bands to have invited Buffalo Killers to open for them on tour. On the evidence of this record the time could be right for them to step out from their shadows.

Click here to pre-order Fireball Of Sulk

Click here for Buffalo Killers' website.
Click here for Sun Pedal Recordings.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Chemistry Set - Elapsed Memories (Ltd. 7")

The Brit-psychers who refuse to die add to their ever pulsating discography.

Although neo-psych overlords,The Chemistry Set split in the early '90s, a new line-up emerged in 2008 that has bucked the trend for ill-advised damp-squib comebacks. Thankfully the material that The Chemistry Set Mk. II have released since their reformation has equalled that of their initial late '80s bloom winning the band a new legion of fans and enhancing the reputation of their earlier work rather than diminishing it.

This three track 7” on Fruits Der Mer Records is no exception. Two brand new original compositions jostle for space with a cover of Jimi Hendrix's Love Or Confusion. Elapsed Memories mixes choral sections with mid-paced Brit-Pop and builds towards a late cinematic flourish. A Cure For The Inflicted Afflicted has shallow obsessions of today's society as it's lyrical target, over a dramatic and searing backing. Nice guitar solo too!

In contrast Love Or Confusion gets a more relaxed reading than the Hendrix version, driven this time by calm-inducing sitar and tablas as opposed to the distortion and disorientation of Jimi's original. I reckon James would approve though. This limited three track 7” is on coloured vinyl and comes complete with a fold-out poster insert. Get it while you can.

Click here for more on The Chemistry Set
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Wild Eyes - Above Becomes Below

Luv 'n' Haight! Rock 'n' Roll! Second album of heavy acid-rock from Janiece and the boys.

San Francisco is already a city with a reputation for brain-bending, female-fronted, acid-rock. Think of Janis Joplin fronting Big Brother And The Holding Company back in the late '60s. That reputation is further renewed by the release of Above Becomes Below, the second album by SF-based rockers Wild Eyes, featuring vocals by Janiece Gonzalez, surely the inheritor of Joplin's untamed queen of rock crown.

This is no Luv'n'Haight hippy trip though, it's something altogether wilder, trashier and rockier, much more 21st century rock and roll, yet informed by the heavy '70s, trash-punk '80s, funk-rock '90s and the back-to-basics new rock revolution of the noughties. There's a road-hardened edge to all the psychedelic rock riffage and unhinged guitar solos, one that evokes wild nights, fast-living and outsider status.

Like any power trio worth their salt, the dudes in the band make rock with a groove, and allow plenty of space for Janiece to do her wild woman vocals over the top. After the initial bluster and bombast of opening track Stiff Nites, the album settles into its groove. With no weak links in the chain Wild Eyes are equally at ease with the slinky, slithering, shape shifting funkiness deployed on seven minute opus The Freak, as they are with the Led Zeppelin style riffs of Alabaster Dream and mystic dreaminess of Hewn Runes. Another artistically successful release for Italy's Heavy Psych Sounds Records, and one which raises the freak flag high. To paraphrase Davis Crosby – you might even grow your hair!

Wild Eyes are -

Janiece Gonzalez – Vocals
Carson Binks - Bass
Chris Corona - Guitar
Ben Richardson - Drums

Click here for more on Wild Eyes.
Click here for Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

The Roots Of Jeff Buckley - A Spotify Playlist

It's now 20 years since Jeff Buckley sole studio album Grace was released. To mark this I've made a spotify playlist of some of his main musical influences, in terms of songwriting, singing and spirit. It also includes songs Jeff covered. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to add suggestions for additions in the comments section.

Bananas Magazine - Isssue #10

Latest issue of NYC-based garage zine! With free online download compilation!

It's always a pleasure to receive the lastest copy of Bananas Magazine. Perhaps the best worldwide garage rock 'zine. This time round there's interviews aplenty - Mystery Lights (New York), Travel Check (Paris), Ave Negra (Costa Rica), Les Grys-Grys, (Southern France), The Ugly Beats (Austin, TX), Groovie Records (Portugal), Genital Hospital (Montreal), The Sound Reasons (Los Angeles), Os Noctàmbulos (Paris) and more! If that's not enough there's also some helpful country-picking guitar tabs and tons of 7" & LP reviews. Check out the Bananas Magazine website for a list of distros or order a copy direct from the site.

Fittingly for a musical genre that's best served on good ol' black vinyl, the mag has a similarly analogue nod in its old school inkyness. Older readers will no what I mean. Younger pups might want to ask their parents. The mag has made a foray into digital modernity though, by compiling a rather wonderful download compilation of the bands featured in this issue. And it's free! Head over to or check it out on the embedded widget thingy below. Happy listening!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Wedge - S/T Debut LP

Berlin trio's riffing, rocking debut! For fans of Blue Cheer, Wolfmother and classic heavy rock!

Less than a year since they formed, Berlin power trio Wedge are releasing their debut album via Italy's Heavy Psych Sounds label. This self-titled platter finds the sweet spot where rock's convergent forms meet to share beers and a spliff, and ask “how're ya doin'?” On listening, it would seem psych, classic, blues, heavy, garage, metal and proto-punk are all doing fine.

Opening track Easy Chair is nowhere near as laid back as the title suggests. Instead it's a drummer's tour-de-force lightened by a lyrical vignette that's worthy of The Who circa '66. This twisted coming of age tale over riff-driven, psychedelic rock is broken up by a more introspective, Doors-esque mid section that's all the better for its sumptuous electric piano.

Looks 'n' Savvy is a swaggering garage-rocker reminiscent of Jet (remember them?), The Datsuns and other new rock revolutionaries of the early noughties. Whereas Makeyerselfree comes on like Oasis covering Stairway to Heaven (it's better than that sounds, believe me!)

For most of their inspiration however, the band look to heavy rock's late '60s/early '70s heyday, as evidenced on '61 SG (see video below), their ode to Gibson's classic guitar and weapon of choice for hard rockers from the '60s onwards. Judging by the tracks on their album, this particular SG is in worthy hands.

The band are touring in Germany throughout November and December in support of this release. If you get the chance go show some love.

Wedge are -

Kiryk Drewinski – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Holger “The Holg” Grosser – Drums & Percussion
David Götz – Bass, Organ, Electric Piano & Mellotron

Click here for more on Wedge.
Click here for more on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

Superfjord/Earthling Society – Coltrane (Split 7” +CD)

Limited edition split 7” pays tribute to John & Alice Coltrane. Includes bonus 70 minute CD.

The name Coltrane is one of the biggest in modern musical history and perhaps the one most associated with such noble concepts as spirituality, love, freedom, improvisation and pushing the boundaries of sonic exploration.

A brave move then for any band (and label) that dares to put their own spin on the music of both John and Alice Coltrane. But that's what we have here thanks to the good people at Fruits De Mer Records. A split 7” single with Finland's Superfjord covering John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and Earth Society tackling Alice Coltrane's somewhat less familiar Journey In Satchidananda.

A Love Supreme's familiar three note riff lends itself to Superfjord's space-rock makeover, a perfect bedrock for guitars guitars to take flight, sonics to be explored, and that all important sense of wonder to be re-invigorated. It's notable also for a voice over extolling the interconnectedness of freedom, art, magic and love.

Not to be outdone, Earthling Society's version of Journey In Satchidananda ventures into similar realms of sonic possibility. An eight minute instrumental meditation that's so simultaneously swampy yet reaching for the stars, even Oscar Wilde would have loved it.

If that wasn't enough there's also a bonus 70 minute CD containing Live versions, remixes by the likes Astralasia and VHSHead, along with new tracks Superfjord, Astralasia and Earthling Society. Is there a label around today that comes close to Fruits De Mer for consistently high quality releases? If so I've yet to come across it.

Click here for more on Superfjord.
Click here for more on Earthling Society.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Maston - Opal Collection

The one man music machine known as Frank rounds up his early releases for your listening pleasure. John Barry meets Brian Wilson on splattered black vinyl.

Last year musical polymath Maston released Shadows, his triumphant debut LP on Trouble In Mind Records (read review here). It was was one of the year's most pleasing surprises, a mix of soft psychedlic and dream pop, full of Brian Wilson-esque studio exploration and melodic inventiveness.

Since then he's busied himself touring as part of fellow psych-adventurer Jacco Gardner's backing band, though it's been pretty quiet on the solo front. That's about to change thanks to Stroll On Records, who have rounded up the music from Voyages and Opal, Maston's first two cassette only EPs, along with some unreleased tracks from the Shadows sessions. The result is a ten track compilation entitled Opal Collection.

While lacking the cohesiveness and flow of his Shadows album the music on this collection is in a much similar vein and will be a well received stocking filler for fans of his Shadows LP. Along with echoes of prime-era Beach Boys, and wrecking crew studio layering there's an impressive dose of John Barry and cold war spy movie soundtracks.

With most tracks vocal-less and and short in length, it has the air of a recently rediscovered film score, one that has inventive use of percussion and an knack of mixing spooked tension with poppy melodies. Nobody does this quite like Frank. While we wait for the next album, this collection of his earlier work will do nicely.

Look out for this release on a limited (300 copies) splatter/black vinyl edition.

Click here for more on Maston.
Click here for more on Stroll On Records.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers - Good Things

Medway garage legends take a trawl through their own back pages on new album.

Don't look back. So have said such wise luminaries as John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan and Oasis through rock's history. Admirable sentiments, but in their defence they probably weren't familiar with the recorded output one Mr. Graham Day. As a member of The Prisoners, The Prime Movers and The Solarflares, as well as more recently in The Buff Medways and Graham Day & The Gaolers, Day has lit up the garage rock firmament for over 3 decades.

For the Medway mod-rocker's latest LP he's teamed up with two of his old musical cohorts to breathe new life into some of the best songs of his 30-year career. New band Graham Day & The Forefathers sees Graham re-unite with bassist Alan Crockford (also ex-Prisoners/Prime Movers/Solarflares) and drummer Wolf Howard (Prime Movers/Solar Flares/James Taylor Quartet/Buff Medways).

After a debut single earlier in the year (Love Me Lies on State Records), the band are now releasing Good Things, an album that's made up of newly recorded versions of Day's songs from his time in The Solarflares, The Prisoners and The Prime Movers. There's also room for a couple of tracks from Day's most recent band, Graham Day & The Gaolers.

Good Things is the first LP on the newly resurrected Own-Up Records and is everything you'd expect from a Medway garage record. A mix of '60s R&B, mod-rock swagger, and incendiary power trio bite. With the backing tracks recorded quickly and live in one session and vocals added later via computer, (the one concession to modern techniques), it has that eternal raw garage feel that never seems to lose its appeal.

There's a rare level of intuitive playing and understanding between the trio that can only have come by having shared countless gigs. By covering songs from your own back catalogue there's always a danger of treading water, but there's more attitude and sonic attack on this album than most bands half their age could muster. Make no mistake, this is no half-arsed re-hash.

It's an album that works well as a alternative greatest hits set, though if this is your first experience of the Graham Day sound it will certainly whet your appetite for a more detailed delve into his previous records. You could argue that by re-visiting their own songbook Day & The Forefathers are resting on their laurels, but when the results sound this good frankly who cares.

Click here for more on Graham Day & The Forefathers.

The Youth - I'll Call Your Bluff / You've Done Me Wrong (Ltd. 7")

Blistering beat 'n' garage 7” from Denmark's latest suit wearing combo!!!

State Records' latest release sees label owner Mole at the control desk, this time at Ponswood Hit Factory up the road in Hastings as opposed to the label's usual in-house facilities in Kent. The results are no less impressive, with both sides of this limited 7” hitting a sonic sweet spot.

Though the band hail from contemporary Copenhagen, The Youth's sound is pitched somewhere between 1961 at Liverpool's Cavern and 1963 at Eel Pie Island. The Youth have a classic two guitar, bass and drums line-up, the vocal are shared between the band's frontline.

“I'll Call Your Bluff” features some Lennon-esque vocal bite from guitarist Lasse Tarp. Like a raw out-take from A Hard Day's Night deemed to rocky for the Fabs' teenybopper fanbase. It's just the ticket for today's garage community however.

Flipside “You've Done Me Wrong” has an equally attacking lead vocal from bassist David Peter Jørgensen, over a groovy take on the Louie Louie riff. Available now on limited 7” vinyl with a push-out centre. Back to mono indeed!

Click here for more on The Youth.
Click here for The Youth on Facebook.
Click here for the State Records website.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Papernut Cambridge - There's No Underground

Refracted glam meets bubblegum and Brit-pop for a sadness-tinged postcard from the end of the line.

Papernut Cambridge may well be the best ever composite band name for anyone wanting to evoke an aura of Englishness, nostalgia, soft psychedelia and a hint of autumnal melancholia. The right name choice then for a band whose music contains all these things and more.

Papernut Cambridge is the brainchild of one Ian Button, former member of Death In Vegas turned music producer and drummer for Wreckless Eric no less. For this, the band's second long player he's drafted in a loose collective of pals that include former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman, Death In Vegas bandmate Mat Flint and three quarters of the Mary Epworth band.

There's No Underground is an album that only someone of a certain age could have made. In some ways a tribute to the pre-punk '70s, when bubblegum pop and glam-rock ruled the charts and airwaves. A Cloud Fallen Down From The Sky brings to mind Terry Jacks' Seasons In The Sun, Nutflake Social is bubblegum pop that borrows melodically from Rocky Horror's The Time Warp, while Accident's Children takes late-era T Rex as its sonic template those records when Marc was getting turned on to sophisticated New York soul and disco.

A lot of artists and albums have mined this era, Denim's Back In Denim, Vinny Peculiar's Other People Like Me and The Dirtbombs' Ooey Gooey Chewy KaBluey! being just three that spring to mind. What sets There's No Underground apart is that it's no nudge-y in-joke. Although inspired by the pop-tastic early '70s it has a strange suburban sadness running through it. Perhaps due in no small part to it's end-of-the-line geographical genesis. (The album title refers not to some comment on today's musical climate, but to Ian Button's home on the edge of south-east London). For all this the tunes are still as catchy as a keep-net.

There's No Underground is available on a variety of formats (including a triple 7” pack), each containing different mixes and alternate takes. Take your pick! Whichever format you choose you won't be disappointed by the songs.

Click here for the Papernut Cambridge website.
Click here for Gare Du Nord Records.

Balduin - All In A Dream

A little something to blow your mind. Switzerland's one-man answer to The Dukes Of Stratosphear.

Switzerland's multi-instrumentalist Balduin has been making and honing his brand of psychedelic pop music since 2001. On the strength of this debut LP release for Sunstone Records perhaps now is the time he becomes more widely known. All In A Dream is released at a time when '60s psych influenced music is enjoying something of a renaissance. With the likes of Temples and Jacco Gardner gaining popularity, and psych festivals popping up everywhere from Tokyo to Liverpool, Austin to Berlin, it seems that now is a great time for music that explores inner head-space. And if it has a catchy poppy side too, well even better. All In A Dream has this in spades. And then some.

Which Dreamed It, Balduin's sitar-based opus is up there with any '60s pop royalty's foray into eastern music. George Harrison and Brian Jones included. Any notion of pastiche is eroded by the track's sheer playfulness. With lilting time signatures, shifting quarter notes, modal scales and melody, it's a true joy and highlight of the album. Though there are many more delights to be enjoyed.

With an ever shifting musical palette that contains echoes of Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson and a thousand great but long-lost psych bands, Balduin covers much musical ground. Father is a Lennon-esque piano ballad that Beatle John himself would have been proud of. Autumn is an amicable meeting between Merseybeat and folk-pop complete with baroque harpsichord.

It would be a fair to assume that Balduin's record collection and favoured listening is mid to late '60s British psych, in particular Donovan's purple patch of Mickie Most produced albums. That said this album will resonate nicely with fans of each subsequent psychedelic era, from XTC, through the Coral and on towards today's neo-psych torch bearers such as Maston and Jacco Gardner.

UK dates are planned for later in the year and it will be interesting to see how this man-of-many instruments translates these recordings into a live setting. But in the meantime this LP offers more than enough delights.

Click here for Balduin's website.
Click here for the Sunstone Records.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Handsome Jack - Do What Comes Naturally

The latest torch carriers for gritty, soulful blues release their debut LP.

The Blues is a wheel that keeps on turning, a gift that keeps on giving. The recent popularity of The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Seasick Steve et al, have made the blues newly accessible to mainstream ears. Unlike jazz it seems to have avoided becoming a dead form, ironically by not changing that much. The same three chords, same subject matter and same delivery have served it pretty well.

The latest band to breathe new life into this old form is Handsome Jack, a quartet from Buffalo, NY. Their debut album Do What Comes Naturally doesn't serve up anything particularly revolutionary but as the title suggests they make music that feels right, and feels good, from the blue-eyed soul burr of the vocals to the in-the-pocket funky rhythm section.

Unlike the White Stripes' punked-up take on the blues, or the Black Keys indie-funk makeover, Handsome Jack have opted for a more organic blues/soul reunification, one with it's roots in the deep southern states of Mississippi and Tennessee as opposed to the NY zip-code that Handsome Jack call home.

Much like the LPs Albert King made for Stax Records, the music here is laid-back, groove-laden and soulful. The band's roots in garage rock are betrayed by the record's bourbon-soaked rawness, but it's a blues record at heart, albeit one that owes as much to '70s funk and late '60s blues rockers Canned Heat as it does to the electrified Chicago blues of John Lee, Muddy and Wolf.

Produced by Zachary Gabbard of label-mates The Buffalo Killers, the record essentially captures the band's live sound with some subtle additions - sumptuous Hammond organ (courtesy of The Lemon Pipers' Bob Nave), the occasional harmonica solo, and some Sweet Inspirations-esque backing vocals. Do What Comes Naturally is a fine addition to the contemporary blues cannon and a disc that'll nicely soundtrack any blues house party.

Click here for more on Handsome Jack.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Soft Hearted Scientists – The Slow Cyclone

Cardiff's psych-collective release their ambitious 6th album. A wide-reaching 24 track song cycle.

There's no other band quite like Soft Hearted Scientists. The Cardiff-based mavericks' 6th album is ample proof of that, and may be their strongest yet. Over an ambitious song-cycle of 24 tracks, Soft Hearted Scientists take you to places other bands don't, yet still manage to buy you an ice cream and get you home in time for tea.

There's a lot to immerse yourself in with this disc. At almost an hour long, it's divided into four sections, each containing full length songs as well as short musical snippets and jingles. There's a vast musical scope across the whole shebang, their trademark nursery rhyme melodies rub shoulders with eerie soundscape pieces, folksy interludes and moments of baroque elegance. It's as if Meic Stevens has made an album with Syd Barrett, and got the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to produce.

At times the album come across as a soundtrack to an as yet unmade movie. Quite what that movie's plot-line would be is anyone's guess. It would have to involve hermit crabs, flying horses and moments of tripped-out japery. A film worthy of a kickstarter project if ever there was one!

For all the Brit-psych whimsy the album also contains some deeper lyrical themes which are occasionally at odds with the music and melodies that contain them. This spoonful-of-sugar/bitter-pill approach makes for a listening experience that's both gently unsettling (in a good way), and genuinely surprising.

“We may be the last flowers in the garden” they sing on Cobra Clouds. Let's hope not, but if so these are plants we should love and nurture. Take up thy watering-can and walk.

The band play Sheffield Lantern Theatre on Saturday 8th November.

Click here for more on Soft Hearted Scientists.

Simones – Majic Ship (7”)

Cult US guitarist makes his first appearance on 7” vinyl.

Al Simones is the cult American guitarist whose four private-pressing LPs have emerged on his own Purple Phrogg imprint over the last 20 odd years gathering him a small but dedicated fanbase. This stand alone 7” featuring two of the artist's favourite back catalogue tracks marks his debut on 7” vinyl.

The A-side, Majic Ship, shifts from full-on acid-rock through lilting acoustic interludes and back again. It has a vocal melody catchy enough for the milkman to whistle, yet still manages to be a guitar player's wet dream. The guitar solo is extraordinary, does everything you hope it will and more. With a guitar sound Hendrix would be pushed to match, the extraordinary guitar solo does everything you hope it will and more besides.

Despite a whole raft of effects - panning, phasing, sustain and distortion, it's the playing, pyrotechnics and imagination involved that makes the track so special. Factor in the equally enthralling flipside, Seize The Moment, and it's obvious that Al Simones could well be the best and most psychedelic guitarist you've never heard of. Headspin Records re-released his four albums in a box-set in 2012 which is well worth tracking down, but this 7” makes an amazing taster and entry point.

Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Various – 7 And 7 Is (Box-set of 7 x 7” singles)

Fruits De Mer do it again! Boxed set of 7 x 7” singles featuring current bands covering their favourites US '60s psych tracks.

The concept of tribute LPs has over the years has given us tracks which add insight and new slants on classic songs, (along with the occasional misguided stinker). Fortunately this boxed set of 7” singles from Fruits De Mer Records gets it right with the bands themselves choosing which acts and songs they cover.

There's a definite labour of Love (no pun intended) vibe about the whole thing; coloured vinyl, limited to 700 copies, housed in a card box, with an insert fold-out poster. It's certainly ticked all the boxes on the packaging front but more importantly the music has a freshness that highlights both the enduring quality of the original songs as well as the talent of the bands that are re-interpreting them.

The Bevis Frond kick things off with Clear Light's Night Sounds and Sand, with Nick Saloman's guitar solos as gloriously free and unhinged as ever. The Higher State choose 13th Floor Elevators for their versions of Wait For My Love and You Don't Know, both tracks bolstered a palpable sense of joy in covering them.

A stand-out pairing is The Chemistry Set covering Love. Tackling any song from Forever Changes is a brave step for any band but the version of A House Is Not A Motel reason enough to shell out for this box-set, with its blistering duelling guitar section. Sendelica sound like a cross between Grace Slick and The Isley Brothers on their version of The United States Of America's Hard Coming Love. A good thing surely!

King Penguin opt for The Byrds with a sumptuous, string laden version of She Don't Care About Time and a version of 5D (Fifth Dimension) that adds some sitar and tabla to the chime and vocal harmony that the track is best known for.

Elsewhere The Gathering Grey make the most of studio trickery and effects for their versions of Moby Grape's I Am Not Willing and Sitting By The Window. Echoed drums and backwards guitar just two examples of the sonic touchstones they employ.

Black Tempest and The Seventh Ring Of Saturn share the final 7”, covering Spirit and The Grateful Dead respectively. Black Tempest's version of Nature's Way owes as much to Robyn Hitchcock and Neil Young as it does to Spirit, while Cream Puff War sees TSROS make fine use of a wah wah pedal and guitar histrionics. A mighty triumph from Fruits De Mer Records once again.

Limited to 700 copies.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Paul Collins - Feel The Noise

The heart of rock 'n' roll is still beating! The power pop guru returns with a celebration of the simple things in life.

Girls, guitars and rock 'n' roll – a simple enough recipe for happiness that's endured through the decades ever since Chuck, Buddy, Jerry Lee, Elvis and Little Richard laid down the template. Music may have mutated over the intervening years but those roots are as strong as ever. Paul Collins' latest long-player is an unashamed celebration of all these rock 'n' roll touchstones; the pleasure of beat music, new love, and cranking up the volume of your favourite slabs of vinyl. As a founding member of The Nerves Collins' reputation as one of power pop's key movers is assured. It's further cemented by this latest platter. Recorded by legendary Detroit producer Jim Diamond (who also plays guitar, bass and provides backing vocals and percussion), it's a punchy, melodic affair with a strong transatlantic thread, part British invasion, part US garage.

With A Girl Like You is not the Troggs' song of the same name but does tip its hat to British shores with its distinct Merseybeat flavour, whereas Baby I'm I'm Love With You resurrects and punks-up the sound of Buddy Holly & The Crickets. Detroit's musical heritage gets a look in with a cover of The Four Tops' Reach Out I'll Be There, its soulful longing supplemented with guitar band urgency. Album closer Walk Away further underlines this soul/guitar crossover, taking doo-wop as its basis. It would make an emotive track for a teen-movie credit roll should any Hollywood producers be reading this. Paul Collins will be on tour in the States later this month and throughout October. Get along to a gig and Feel The Noise! If you can't make a gig get this record instead. It won't disappoint.

Click here for more on Paul Collins.
Click here for Paul Collins on Twitter.

Paz Antiguana – Hot Latin Soul from Paris!

New band alert! Paris' Paz Antiguana release 45s that merge soul, latin and tropicalia!

As summer fades away and autumn's browns and reds start to colour the leaves, there's still a dose of sunshine to be had through the mystical portal of music. A new band to me are Paz Antiguana from Paris, whose music could variously be described as latin, boogaloo, Afro-Cuban, soul or Tropicalia. But hey let's not get hung up on labels, this is music that makes you feel good, much like lazy days with the sun's hot rays on your face. And you can dance to it too!

The band have released two 7” singles so far in very limited quantities. A handful of these are still available from the band's Bandcamp page (link below). This is the sort of music that makes you want to invite all your pals over for a neighbourhood party with good food, chilled drinks and above all dancing! Just the thing to keep any winter blues at bay! My advise is get in quick for those singles before you have to pay double over on Discogs!

Click here for Paz Antiguana on Facebook.

Cyanna Mercury – Ode To The Absent Father

Athens based Cyanna Mercury fly the flag for Greek psych-rock on their debut single.

Previously Greece's main contribution to psychedelia has been the band Aphrodite's Child, though this 2 track digital single from new psych-blues band Cyanna Mercury shows that the country is still capable of producing fine mind-bending sounds.

Dirty Things is a fine lusty excursion into Hammond heavy blues rock, but it's on the lead track Ode To The Absent Father, where the band gets to show more of what they're capable of. A dramatic primal scream of childhood anxiety complete with exploratory guitar breaks and effects laden vocals. It's an epically big sound, and bodes well for the promise of a full length debut LP next spring.

Fusing the best of British and American blues-rock with a more eastern looking approach to scales and dynamics, this is an ambitious approach and a notch above your average retro retread. French fans will get a taste of the band when a TV show called Mezzo Voce will air a studio-filmed live performance this October.

Click here for Cyanna Mercury's website.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Pint Size Hero - Like A Hurricane

South coast rockers second album gives proves UK rock is alive and well.

Just when you think British indie music is dead in the water due to fey indentikit bands (usually with a London postcode) along come Pint Size Hero with an album that promises a bright future for UK rock. Though rock has almost become a dirty word on these shores in the last few years with American bands such as Foo Fighters and QOTSA carrying its torch, perhaps now the time is right for British bands to reclaim some ground.

It may be time for the yanks to hand back their crowns however. Brighton based trio Pint Size Hero have just released their second album Like A Hurricane, a record that gives weight to such hopes. The band have cherry-picked the best bits of contemporary indie rock; the bombast and swagger of Kasabian, the intelligence and nouse of the Arctic Monkeys along with the Jack White's visceral bite and attack, putting this patchwork together into something of their own.

The roots of their sound go right back to the late '60s blues rock scene, through the '70s with Led Zeppelin, right up to today's mainly American fuzz rockers. Often with these bands the sonic attack comes at the expense of good songs and tunes but that's not something we need to worry about here - all the bruising riffs and solos are matched with melodies and choruses big enough to fire up any decent size arena.

The band are not afraid to show their softer side with late album track “Discover” providing a well sequenced break to the full on rock. The largely acoustic tune shows the band have as much a knack for a canny tune as they do for mangling riffs from a fuzzed-up Les Paul. Similarly album closer “Spin The Wheel” is the acoustic calm after the electric storm.

It's the rockier tracks however that make up the bulk of the album and give it its overall flavour. With plenty of pedal-to-the-metal driving rock, and intuitive ensemble playing. Check out the heavy but soulful groove on “No Love In The Fire” or the anthemic chorus of lead-single “Hunger”. Any justice and the trio may soon need to upgrade from pint size to stadium size.

Click here for Pint Size Hero's website
Click here for Pint Size Hero on Twitter
Click here for Pint Size Hero on Facebook

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Suburban Homes - The Suburban Homes EP

It's 2014 and there's still plenty of pricks to kick against. Dissatisfaction, anger, and ennui provide the inspiration for The Suburban Homes' debut EP.

Home to garage rock wunderkid Paul Messis, Market Square Records branch out of the garage into punkier, spikier territory with this debut release from The Suburban Homes. It's a 7” single infused with the spirit of first wave punk, when punk rock was all about having something to say and a reason to say it, when punk was a true rebellion and not commodity or nostalgia cash cow.

Refreshingly lo-fi, the three track EP favours substance over style. Over the self-titled lead track's three chord clatter conformity comes in for a kicking; Shopping, work, weekend drink binges and the opiate of TV and social networks are all in firing line. Apple can release as many new products as they like but modern life will always be rubbish according to the Suburban Homes.

Pseudo-intellectuals provide a similar target on the appropriately titled Pseudo-Intellectuals. It's not all negativity though, on D.I.Y the band sing the praises of the DIY ethic. An admirable stance and an admirable EP, and more in tune with what makes good punk rock than Green Day or Blink 182 will ever be.

Limited edition (300) black vinyl 7” with photocopied sleeve and inserts.
Click here for more on Market Square Records. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Wands - Debut Album, Video and Tour Dates!

Danish psych duo The Wands are set to release their debut album, The Dawn, on November 3rd - Available on CD / Digital / 12” Coloured vinyl. We kid ye not! As a taster for the album and upcoming tour dates the pair have released a video for lead single "Sound Of The Machine"

The duo, comprised of childhood friends Christian Skibdal and Mads Gräs, the pair share an especially old-school mind-set when it comes to the mix, honest production, and recording to tape with analogue kit – all of which is reflected visually in this VHS-quality video. Sound of The Machine resuscitates 60’s style Psych-rock and injects a characteristically playful Wands streak, in a track about sticking the finger to the man; “there's an island of misplaced toys / it's a sea of sweet delight / on the planet of misfit boys / they jump at the chance of a good fight”, they sing.

The Wands’ next European tour kicks off in November, and includes the following UK dates.

November UK live dates:
07.11.14 The Lexington, London, UK
09.11.14 The Art School, Glasgow, UK
10.11.14 Jamcafe, Nottingham, UK
11.11.14 The Stag And Hounds, Bristol, UK
12.11.14 The Roadhouse, Manchester, UK
13.11.14 The Magnet, Liverpool, UK
15.11.14 Club Psychedelia at Lennon's, Southampton, UK

Spindrift on tour! Return of the Spaghetti-Western Rockers!

SPINDRIFT are back in Europe to present their movie "Ghost Of The West" and play live.

The film was shot during the "Ghost Town Tour" of 2012 over a span of 4 weeks where they performed in nothing but Ghost Towns, National Parks, vast deserts, Historical Places, and generally strange and forgotten locales to nobody but the film crew (Directed by Burke Roberts with Cinematographers J.T. Gurzi and Rich Ragsdale). The Soundtrack was released via Tee Pee Records in Oct. 2013 (BEFORE the films release in usual Spindrift style a la "The Legend of God's Gun").

Here is what the band has to say about the upcoming events -

"We have a NEW FILM coming out that was inspired by our love of The West and touring Ghost Towns: SPINDRIFT: GHOST OF THE WEST! The SOUNDTRACK is already available on Tee Pee Records. Screenings everywhere this 2014 along with many a various live show where we perform the Soundtrack so ya'll can pick up the LP Soundtrack while your at it!
This is for the fans. We will not make the film available anywhere else. Only for those who make it to the shows or screenings first come first served!

Upcoming dates -
02.09.14 Copenhagen (den) Loppen with Film screening
03.09.14 Stockholm (swe) Stampen
04.09.14 Oslo (nor) Oslo Psych Fest
05.09.14 Aalborg (den) 1000 Fryd
06.09.14 Offenbach (ger) Sky High Festival
07.09.14 Freiburg (ger) Slow Club
08.09.14 Chambery (fra) Le Brinc Du Zinc
09.09.14 Clermont Ferrand (fra) Raymond Bar
10.09.14 Barcelona (spa) Teatro El Latino de Barcelona
12.09.14 Santiago De Campostela (spa) Wos Inc Festival
13.09.14 Lisbon (por) Reverence Valada Festival
14.09.14 Cascais (por) Club Stairway
15.09.14 Vila Real (por) Club De Vila Real
16.09.14 San Sebastian (spa) Le Bukowski
17.09.14 Tolouse (fra) Dynamo
18.09.14 Paris (fra) Le Batofar
19.09.14 Angers (fra) Leviation Festival
20.09.14 Tillburg (hol) Incubate Festival
21.09.14 Haarlem (hol) Patronaat
22.09.14 Vevey (swi) Studio 603
23.09.14 Marseille (fra) La Machine à Coudre
25.09.14 London (uk) The Shacklewell Arms
26.09.14 Liverpool (uk) Liverpool Psych Fest
27.09.14 Edinburgh (uk) Bongo Club with Film Screening
28.09.14 Glasgow (uk) Audio Club
01.10.14 Lille (fra) El Diablo
02.10.14 Geleen (hol) Volt
03.10.14 Berlin (ger) Bang Bang Club with Film Screening
04.10.14 Aarhus (den) Aarhus Psych Fest
11.10.14 a very special screening and live performance of SPINDRIFT: GHOST OF THE WEST will be held and presented by KIRPATRICK THOMAS at AWFF2014 (ALMERIAN WESTERN FILM FESTIVAL) held in Tabernas, Almeria SPAIN in the Mini-Hollywood Theater!

SMASH Fashion - Big Cat Love

Easy tiger! Chunky upbeat glam-rock from LA.

As a Hull City fan I don't need much encouragement to show some big cat love. Though let's not mention the Tigers' poor first foray in the Europa league! (Oh I just did!) Anyhow I'm sure fellow Hull City fan Mick Ronson would have approved of Big Cat Love, the debut LP from Los Angeles glam-choppers Smash Fahion. It's an album that takes inspiration from that first wave of early '70s glam rock acts. There are shades of Ronson-era Bowie, early Queen, The Sweet, Mott The Hoople and a whole raft of lesser known junk shop glam bands.

There's a fair bit of this stuff around at the moment with Italian retro-glammers such as Giuda and Fab Waltz ploughing a similar furrow. Then there's Bath-based funsters Ulysses with their toungue-in-cheek take on mid 1970s pop-rock. Perhaps it's a legacy of the gap left by the demise of The Darkness's early promise, or maybe it's a result of musicians of a certain age reaching back to their formative musical influences. Whatever the reasons it certainly makes for great fun listening.

For all the '70s Brit-glam influences there's a distinctly transatlantic hue to the album,
not too surprising given that over time the band has been made up of ex-members of US bands Rock City Angels (Johnny Depp's old band no less), The Dils, along with Brit Nigel Mogg (ex-Quireboys and nephew of UFO's Phil Mogg) and Repo, drummer from Finnish band Smack. Unlike first wave glam-rock, the hand claps and stomps are kept to a minimum, replaced with a modern LA-rock sheen.

Like all the best glam there are enough moments of lyrical silliness, plenty good riffs and OTT guitar solos to keep the party going. Along with the glitter and and glam there's a healthy dose of power pop, LA sleaze-rock and even traces of hair-metal. Definitely one for the party animals out there.

Click here for more on SMASH Fashion.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Tir na nOg - I Have Known Love 7" (OUT NOW!)

Legendary Irish folk duo cover Silver Apples on their latest 7”

It would seem that Tir na nOg have been around forever. Actually that's not true, although they inked their first record contract in 1970, which in musical terms is as good as, the pair split in 1974 after their first run of albums before tentatively reuniting in 1985. Fortunately they can still cut it, as evidenced by this 4 track EP on Fruits De Mer Records. The lead track is a beguilingly beautiful cover of Silver Apples' “I Have Known Love”, a surprising choice perhaps but one that makes perfect sense on hearing, its melody reclaimed from the obscuring noise, Americana brought back home to Ireland. With lyrics of sailing boats which fit well with this concept of Atlantic criss-crossing.

Their pair's own songwriting is as strong as ever, with the three original songs exuding a timeless loveliness. “You In Yellow”, written and sung by Sonny Condell, pays homage to warm days and their effects on nature and our emotions, with Leonard Cohen-esque melody enhanced by gypsy violin and finger-picked acoustic guitar. “The Angelus”, again by Condell tackles the bigger issues of religion and afterlife. “I Pick Up Birds” is written and sung by Leo O'Kelly and has a freshness that would shame a lot of contemporary indie bands and relates a true story that happened to the author at a funeral. An impressive mini-collection of songs showing that acid-folk has a present and a future as well as a past.

Click here for Tir na nOg's website
Click here for the Fruits De Mer website.

Naam / White Hills / Black Rainbows / The Flying Eyes - Desert Fest Split LP

Four bands for the price of one showcasing the best of Italy's Heavy Psych Sounds label.

Split releases are an interesting affair. The hope is that the each band's music will sit comfortably on such a format and compliment that of the other bands. When they work everyone's a winner – the musicians, label and especially us humble music consumers. For the music fan they're often a gateway or inroad into new sonic adventures. You buy the thing because it features one band and end up liking and investigating the other bands.

This four way split featuring acts on the Heavy Psych Sounds record label is a good example. Four bands – (Naam, White Hills, Black Rainbows and The Flying Eyes), each having 2 songs to let us know what they're about. Or just the one in White Hills' case. Although already familiar with the work of Black Rainbows (click here for a review of their Holy Moon album), the other acts are new to me so we'll look at them first.

Naam open the proceedings with “Skyscraper (Ambient Remix)”. The bracketed part of the title will give you a clue to what this track is about. It feels like the calm before the storm, as if we're being broken in gently. It's not until their following track that we get a truer sense of what they're about. “Thickening Web” is infused with a dread and foreboding that the title suggests. Hypnotically repetitive, circling and building. More Krautrock than stoner-rock which comes as a surprise given the stylistic reputation of the label.

White Hills' sole track “They've Got Blood... Like You've Got Blood” is an eleven minute epic opening with with random oscillations, mariachi trumpet and angry voices before drums begin to swell the track into something grander. Again there's more drone than rock, hinting at a new direction or offshoot for the label perhaps. It's not until the eight and a half minute mark before the track takes an unexpected turn into Kraftwerk-influenced electronica. Expect the unexpected as the saying goes.

Next up are Black Rainbows with some altogether familiar hard-driving stoner-rock on “Viper Rock”. Guitar fuzzy, hoary rock god vocals. It's safe but good ground. It's not until the band's second offering that they show us what they're really capable of. “Minor Monster Galaxy Message” is a slower, more nuanced affair with some lovely delicate electric piano midway through.

It's left to The Flying Eyes to round off the album. Their first track “Golden Grey” has a stately grandeur about it, with guitars holding long high notes over the Eddie Vedder-esque vocals. They follow this up with “Evil Little Leslie”, (a nod the rotating speaker cabinet used on the vocal no doubt), which makes use of Hubert Sumlin's Spoonful riff. All in all this is a surprisingly varied and rewarding compilation. Keep your mind open and you'll end up liking at least one of the bands here more than you thought you would.

Click here for the Heavy Psych Sounds website.