Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Paolo Spaccamonti - Rumors

A David Axelrod for the alt-rock and electronic generation!

Not a remake of the Fleetwood Mac bestselling LP as some might hope, this is an entirely different beast made up of arty instrumentals. In much the same way that Daxid Axelrod mixed rhythm and blues with third stream music to create something contemplative and with a deeper resonance, Paolo Spaccamonti mixes alt-rock, looped chord sequences and soundscapes that at first listen seem beguiling but over time reveal a transporting power all of their own.

His technique of repetition and layering is at times in danger of being bogged down by its own seriousness but he does do it rather well. Deeper listening shows there to be a myriad of influences and styles at play; post-punk industrial guitars, a nod to OMD's Dazzle Ships, a touch of sludge-rock on the album's heavier moments, and even some Robert Kirby style pastoral strings on the closing track 'Fango'. Spaccamonti already has some impressive collaborations to his name both live and in the studio. This solo outing will cement his already growing reputation.

Click here for Paolo Spaccamonti's website.
Click here for Paolo Spaccamonti on Facebook.
Click here for Escape From Today.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dreadnaught – Gettin' Tight With EP

Old dogs, new tricks! New Hampshire proggers' latest EP!

It's something of a mystery that Dreadnaught are not more widely known. It's nineteen years since they formed (yep nineteen!) and as their latest EP Gettin' Tight With shows, descending into blandness or stasis is not an option for these chaps. The five-song EP opens with the dense prog calling card of 'Nervous Little Dogs', all intricate virtuoso playing which for all its complicated twists and turns manages to hold together and er.. rock!

The prog tag is somewhat misleading as over the course of the EP there's traces of country rock, skewed funk, jazz fusion and Steely Dan-style sophistication and smoothness to be heard. It's this freedom in their approach which appeals most, along with their sense of humour. You get the feeling they take the music seriously but not themselves. Fans of old school prog bands such as ELP, King Crimson, Genesis and the like will wet their pants over this stuff. As will open-minded fans of good music in general. Get on board!

Click here for Dreadnaught's website.
Click here for Dreadnaught on Twitter.
Click here for Red Fez Records.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Orphan Brigade: Soundtrack To A Ghost Story

Southern Gothic epitomised. The American Civil War inspires album and documentary.

The American Civil War was a brutal, harsh affair which set brother against brother. It still resonates and haunts modern America as illustrated by the recent controversy over the Confederate flag and its continued use in the Southern states. It still fascinates but is rarely used as subject matter in contemporary roots music. The Orphan Brigade: Soundtrack To A Ghost Story is a suite of songs featured in a documentary about Octagon Hall – a Civil War-era plantation house, reputed to be haunted. Soldiers of the First Kentucky Brigade were stationed nearby, and it's their writings and journals that that have inspired the songs featured in the film and on the accompanying soundtrack album. The musical collective also took their name from the unit's nickname.

The story of the American South is complicated, but the music here will teach you as much as any history book. A project such as this could easily have come across as dry, stilted and worthy but such is the skill of the musicians and writers involved this is not the case. Each song focusses on the personal, human stories that take you into the heart of the subject in a deep and powerful way. The music is mighty fine too, a hugely enjoyable example of Americana, which also displays some European and Celtic roots. It may also contain the finest (and sadly prescient) new Christmas song you'll hear this year, 'We Were Marching On Christmas Day'. Whether you believe in ghosts matters little, but it's difficult to deny how actions and events echo down the years.

Click here for more on The Orphan Brigade.

THE ORPHAN BRIGADE - Soundtrack To A Ghost Story // THE FILM from Neighborhoods Apart Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus – Beauty Will Save The World

Cult Liverpool musicians' new album searches for truth, beauty and meaning in a messed up world!

Musicians reforming for the coin may garner more column inches but when they do so for the music, and because they have something to say, the results are infinitely more interesting and worthy of our attention. Such is the case with Beauty Will Save The World. After an 18 year hiatus RAIJ feel the time is right for for the world to hear their latest work. A low-key release it may be, but one that deserves and needs to be heard.

With such a loaded album title (a Dostoevsky quote), the music has a lot to live up to. It doesn't disappoint. Comprised of ambient, soft cinematic soundscapes with poetical spoken word passages drifting in from the ether in a variety of languages. Over several listens a central thrust emerges, one concerned with religion, beauty, truth and transcendence. The music is gentle and tinged with sadness yet manages to be both elegiac and hopeful. Although there are several languages throughout the album (every continent represented), the album is about connections rather than differences. Truly music for the healing of nations. It may get overlooked in the end-of-year/Christmas scramble but you're unlikely to find a more affecting and unique album. Recommended.

Click here for RAIJ on Facebook.
Click here for Occultation Recordings.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Fallen Leaves - Out In A Forest b/w The Inside Of A Chair (Ltd. 7”)

South Londoners' latest 7”, very limited and very very good!

There's a lot of fuss currently about 1966, due in no small part to Jon Savage's book, 1966 The Year The Decade Exploded. Those of us in the garage world have always known that the year represented some sort of high water mark for guitar bands before fragmenting into either drug addled psych, overblown proto-metal, or back-to-the-country navel-gazing.

Which brings me to The Fallen Leaves, whose latest single on Market Square Records harks back to that classic and timeless '66 Beat Explosion, all taut riffs, snappy beats and guitar jangle. Neither overproduced or overblown, just great taut songwriting and playing which evokes every era of back-to-basic bands, from the '60s garage scene, through punk and onto the DIY ethos of '80s indie.

B-side 'The Inside Of A Chair' is a more aggressive affair, all instrumental apart from the spoken “Hello” and “Goodbye” that bookend its short sharp blast. All in all this 7” is a cracking double header, managing to bring together all the threads and strands of what a great four piece band is all about. Get it while it's hot!

Limited to 300 copies complete with a hand-numbered postcard.

Click here for The Fallen Leaves' website.
Click here for The Fallen Leaves on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Everlasting Yeah – Anima Rising

Ex-members of That Petrol Emotion return for more manic pop thrills!

That Petrol Emotion were a band whose critical reputation was not matched by record sales. If anything they were a band out of time. For a band made up of former members of The Undertones, a smaller following did however mean the band had more artistic freedom after casting off the pop shackles. With a sound that was spiky and angular, but bolstered a solid rock-funk groove the band were out of step with the populist Britpop sounds when they split in 1994. It was a further ten years before Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, Maximo Park and the like cashed in with a style that owed much to TPE.

Twenty years on from their dissolution the final line-up of TPE return with a new name, a new outlook and no diminishing of their talents or enthusiasm. On their debut album as The Everlasting Yeah round all four members share vocal duties along with writing credits. Egos and genres are left at the door leaving the band free to go where the muse takes them. They describe their sound as Keltic Kosmische Musik on their website. While that may be a somewhat bold claim there is a sense of freedom, an abandonment of tried and tested routes, but with a remaining belief in the power of a good strong tune.

The Keltic Kosmische claim is most evident on closing opus 'The Grind' where the band stretch out into an extended hypnotic jam. Elsewhere top session saxophonist and indie music biz lifer Terry Edwards makes a guest appearance on 'Taking That Damn Train Again', a sterling lesson in skronk 'n' roll. There's even room for some indie-funk on '(Whatever Happened To The) Hoodlum Angels'. Fans of boundary pushing guitar music from Television through to QOTSA will find much common ground here, and much to like!

Click here for The Everlasting Yeah website.
Click here for Occultation Recordings.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Shifting Sands - Cosmic Radio Station

Antipodean shoegaze alert!

To title your 2nd album Cosmic Radio Station is a bold move but not if the sounds it contains can back it up. Fortunately New Zealand trio The Shifting Sands have concocted a pleasing mix of hazy shoegaze and indie thrum and chime which more than backs up the claim. Softly sung vocals and poppy melodies break through the wall of sound making the album as much about tunes as it is about textures.

Highlights include the moody 'Making It Through' where the band get a chance to max out their pedal boards, 'Coming Back', a pop tune in noisy wolf's clothing, and the short instrumental 'Whareakeake', a nod to where the album was recorded, its yearning folk melody adorned with baroque strings. Throughout the record noise is tempered by melodies, which break through the shimmer like sunshine through clouds.

Fans of Chaptehouse, Slowdive and the like will feel right at home, as will those of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Other signposts include The Psychedelic Furs, Kurt Vile, and Ultra Vivid Scene. That said, there ain't nobody around right now quite like The Shifting Sands. Check 'em out!

Click here for The Shifting Sands on Facebook.
Click here for Occultation Recordings
Click here for Fishrider Records.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The Optic Nerve - Penelope Tuesday / Here To Stay (Ltd 7")

Lost recordings from the Brooklynite's mid-noughties reformation.

Much like that other New York band The Velvet Underground, The Optic Nerve may not have played much outside their home city, or sold many records in their brief first flowering. But posthumous LP releases by Get Hip and Screaming Apple Records have resulted in a well deserved re-appraisal of the band's sound.

In 1985 on our side of the pond, bands such as Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Bodines et al were taking inspiration from mid '60s folk rock, dressing like Sterling Morrisson and finding an appreciative audience. In the US such back-to-the-garage mentality was out of step with what mainstream audiences wanted. Punk rock had yet to go overground.

Skip forward to 2005 and The Optic Nerve mainstays Bobby Belfiore and Tony Matura form a new line-up of the band to record an album's worth of material. These recordings ended up shelved for a further ten years. It's only now, that State Records are issuing two cuts from these sessions.

'Penelope Tuesday' is the upbeat, poppy A-side, sounding like a summer smash best heard on AM Radio. Flipside is a more considered moodier affair, big on jangle, vocal harmonies and descending chord sequences. Both sides are worthy of your attention though. Let's hope that full album will sometime see the light of day.

Click here for The Optic Nerve on Facebook.
Click here for the State Records website.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou – EXPATRIOT

Long awaited fourth long-player from TM & HL takes an intelligent and compassionate look at the hard times of old/new England.

For their previous album, 2012's La Ferme De Fontenaille, husband and wife duo Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou spent ten days recording in a barn located in the Pay De La Loire, France, aided by little more than a pair of guitars and a 4-track cassette recorder. For their latest album they've enlisted the help of recording legend Ethan Johns whose label Three Crows Records is jointly releasing the record with Trevor and Hannah-Lou's own Anglophone Recording Company.

The pair have busied themselves between album with a series of tours, most notably opening for Tori Amos throughout Europe and North America. Fortunately for us listeners they've also found time to write. Matching Ethan John's heightened sonic focus on the new album is the song-writing which is as sharp and incisive as anything from their back catalogue. As hinted at by the album title's play on words, EXPATRIOT sees the duo explore a recurring theme in their writing, that of nationality, what it means to be British, or more specifically English. And also just how deep rooted are the systems that perpetuate our problems with ourselves and the rest of the world.

The opening title track sets the tone, a rallying wake-up call to a population whose “daydreaming days may be done”. 'Galley Hill' casts a compassionate eye at the refugee crisis over an early Beatles chord sequence while 'Up Mercatoria' paints everyday vignettes of working life in an area of the duo's hometown and subtly references the founding blocks of how we interact with the rest of the world. 'Babe To Cradle' is an album highlight, a genuinely sublime track with Dylan-ish use of alliteration, examining monarchy as well as warmongering and extremism. For all the serious topics the album ends on an optimistic note with 'A Better Day' complete with a sing-a-long chorus and kazoo solos.

As a nation we precariously balance hope and despair, pride and shame. The latter pairing none more so when it comes to how we view and treat the rest of the world. Our borders may be made by God, but our frustrating insularity is wholly our own. It's a sensitive area and one that a lot of musicians shy away from. Not Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou. If only more musicians were prepared to examine these issues in such an intelligent and compassionate way. Especially now we need them to more than ever.

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou will be supporting Ron Sexsmith on tour this October as well as opening for Jools Holland later this autumn - 

Jools Holland dates
Thursday 29th October – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Friday 30th October – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Thursday 12th November – Colosseum, Watford
Saturday 14th November – Barbican, York

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tir na nOg – Ricochet (Ltd7”)

Tir na nOg's newest mystical masterpiece! A taster from their first studio LP in over 40 years!

Tir na nOg were and are trailblazers of genre defying acoustic music. The duo formed in 1970, released a string of critically acclaimed albums. and achieved a sizeable cult following before splitting in 1974. The pair re-united in 1985 for sporadic live shows and have recently stepped their touring up a gear, much to the delight of fans old and new.

Their reputation as acid-folk luminaries is now further cemented by the release of new track 'Ricochet' on a coloured vinyl 7”. Taken from the forthcoming album The Dark Dance, (their first in over 40 years), it resembles a devotional Sufi song more than it does Irish or English folk, with echoes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, acoustic Zep and even The Sisters Of Mercy. Drone, Arabic scales and percussion are the order of the day, lending the song an air of urgent mysticism.

The flipside features a previously unreleased live version 'Tir na nOg'. It's a cracking take on their signature song and proof that the pairs' talents and enthusiasm show no signs of diminishing just yet. Land of eternal youth indeed!

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

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Wrong Society – She Destroyed Me b/w Without You (Ltd. 7”)

A double pronged ode to love gone wrong from Hamburg's newest garage band.

One of the garage scene's default lyrical themes, (hell one of life's themes I guess!) is love gone wrong, being mystreated by a lover who you'd put all hope and faith in. With this in mind it could be a case of treading (dirty) water for German garage band The Wrong Society whose second single, and first for Paul Messis' Market Square Records, has this staple subject at its core.

Through sheer spirit and conviction however this is not the case. She Destroyed Me is a four chord stormer charting the love-gone-wrong aftermath. It's bolstered by high-in-the-mix tambourine and a Vox Super Continental keyboard solo. The Hamburg based quartet have a more measured, reflective take on the situation on the flipside Without You, where the protagonist's feelings turn from anger to sadness. A nice addition to any deejay's 7" box.

On 7” black vinyl, limited to 300 copies complete with a hand-numbered postcard.

Check out The Wrong Society at one of their upcoming German gigs -

September 22nd - Molotow Skybar, Hamburg
October 1st - Feinstaub, Frankfurt
October 2nd - Goldgrube Kassel
October 3rd - Sonic Ballroom, Cologne
October 16th - Roadrunner's Paradise, Berlin

Click here for The Wrong Society on Facebook.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Magic Bus – Seven Wonders b/w Eight Miles High (Ltd. 7”)

Devon band's take on the Canterbury sound is as warm and welcome as a ray of late summer sun.

Magic Bus make music that lives up to their name; it delights, dazzles, and takes you places you want to go. Their first single for the Fruits de Mer label contains an original A-side, Seven Wonders, backed with their take on The Byrds' Eight Miles High. It may just be the pick of the crop of FDM's early Autumn releases.

If you want comparisons think Caravan and the Canterbury sound. Think gentle, pastoral home counties psychedelia. Think Englishness as encapsulated by Robert Wyatt-esque vocals. Think hops fields, sunny days and games of cricket. But really don't think at all, just listen. You won't be disappointed.

The initiated may have already heard Seven Wonders as it's taken from their Transmission From Sogmore's Garden album, their 2nd for Static Caravan Records. For the rest of us this first meeting is as warm and welcome as a ray of late summer sun. Along with its strong melody and harmonies worthy of Crosby, Stills and Nash, the band prove equally adept at wigging out as evidenced in the song's proggy coda.

Eight Miles High is a slowed down take on The Byrds classic with an almost Gregorian vocal intro. Any folk-rock urgency is replaced by a more measured jazz swing. Similarly it's flute and synthesizer that take flight on the solos instead of McGuin's garbled guitar. Very nice indeed!

Click here for the Magic Bus website.
Click here for Magic Bus on Facebook.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Nick Nicely – 49 Cigars (Ltd. 7”)

'80s lost psych classic gets a well deserved reissue on Fruits De Mer Records.

Cult musician Nick Nicely may not be known to many outside of the psych-scene cognoscenti, but he sure as hell knows how to make great music. The lead track of this 4 track EP is actually a B-side from his 1982 single Hilly Fields. Hilly Fields was actually reissued by FDM several years ago but now it's 49 Cigars that's getting some well deserved attention.

All the hallmarks of classic British Psychedelia are present, incorrect and there to disorientate your senses. Chug and drone, lyrics that engage but don't always make sense, sampled sonics that swoop in unexpectedly, along with backwards guitar breaks and a trumpet blast that's part fox-hunt bugle, part Proms pomp but mostly a reveille directed at the straight world.

Also included on this EP is a revelatory live version of 49 Cigars that brims over with brio and energy, an exclusive remix of Belinda (taken from Nick's latest solo LP) and Lobster Dobbs, a track taken from his Space Of A Second LP for LO Recordings. Fans of all things lysergic will find this as good an entry point as any into Nick's work.

Click here for Nick Nicely on Facebook.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Worthless – Children Of The Grave b/w Softest (Ltd. 7”)

Brooklyn acid-heads trip out into poppy psych and blissful soul on their latest single.

Market Square Records, the rapidly blossoming garage rock label, have diversified somewhat with their latest batch of releases which includes this limited 7” single by New York acid heads Worthless. It's the sound of '60s pop going psychedelic. The track's simplistic melody nicely draped in swirly atmospherics, echo and disorientating reverb.

Softest features a blissfully stoned circular groove, and comes across like an out-take from Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson. The sound of innocence getting experienced. Loping bass and drums that sound like they could fall apart into fits of giggles at any point. Midway through this mutates into a solid psychedelic soul groove worthy of Isaac Hayes, or The (Norman Whitfield produced) Temptations.

Limited to 300 copies only, this platter comes in a hand-numbered fold over sleeve, the inner side featuring a collage by Worthless' Curtis Godino, plus a free postcard. Get one now or regret it later!

Click here for Worthless on Facebook.

Vibravoid – Stepping Stone (Ltd. 7”)

Psychedelic Monkee business and heavy Traffic aboard the Lovecraft.

With Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork heading out on their latest nostalgic cash-in for the first time in ten years it's a happy coincidence that Vibravoid are releasing a brand new 7” featuring their take on The Monkees classic (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone. The garage rock staple gets a Freakbeat makeover complete with backward guitar solo. Neat!

If the Monkees cover doesn't float your boat there's always their version of Traffic's Hole In My Shoe which features guest vocals from Italian mod jazz singer Viola Road. A fairly straight take on the Brit-psych save for the middle eight section which is sung as opposed to spoken

Completing this 3 track 7” is a new mix of H.P. Lovecraft's The White Ship. Less about melody and more of a mood piece with atmospherics, synth shimmer and pulsating bass, it completes a pretty impressive 3 tracker!

Click here for Vibravoid on Facebook.
Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Paul Messis - The Blind Leading The Blind b/w As Time Rolls By

Sixth solo single from Sussex-based garage outsider.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the recorded output of Paul Messis should listen up. For my money he makes some of the most authentic garage psych out there at the moment. And not only that his songs actually say something. That's right kids, music that actually speaks to you!
On his latest solo single he takes a stand against the hypocrisy of the modern world. For all its vocal dissatisfaction with the mores of today, the backing sounds just like an unearthed folk-rock nugget from the mid '60s. Two minutes of garage-psych spleen venting that brings to mind Arthur Lee's Love or early Byrds.
The flipside is an altogether more reflective affair with a tears-of-a-clown theme. Its C86 vibe provides a sweet counterpoint to the A-side's fuzzy snarl and bite.

Out now and limited to 300 copies on trad black vinyl housed in 'Market Square' company sleeve, all copies come with a hand-numbered Poster.

First 100 buyers of the 45, will get the record in a DIY photocopied fold-over sleeve made by Paul Messis.

Monday, 31 August 2015

ZX+ - Don't Drink The Water

Lancashire's one man band releases latest ragbag of ideas, invention and razor sharp guitars.

Remember when indie meant music unshackled by label or audience expectations, rather the bland compromised genre it subsequently became in the wake of '90s Britpop? If you do or wish you did then you'll probably like Don't Drink The Water by ZX+. A ragbag of no fixed genre but brimming with energy and razor sharp guitars.

ZX+ is not a home computer revamped and re-branded by Sir Clive Sinclair, but the musical conduit for one Stephen Evans. The Lancashire-based musician has written, sang and played pretty much everything on the album, bar the drums. Neatly trimmed and non-indulgent for a self-produced record, it shape shifts between up-tempo wordy romps à la Arctic Monkeys and melodic McCartney-esque folksiness, with some Cardiacs style quirkiness thrown in for good measure.

This feeling of not quite knowing what to expect is one of the record's main strengths. The album opens with The Crazies which contains quiet/loud dynamics and Mick Ronson style guitar hooks. From thereon in were treated to delicate folksy instrumentals and rum tales over punky backing, all held together by excellent musicianship, attention to detail, quality song writing, and Evans' northwestern brogue. A highly enjoyable album that deserves to be heard.

Click here for ZX+ on Twitter.
Click here for ZX+ on Facebook.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-80

An aural love letter to pop's last age of innocence. Papernut Cambridge's latest LP pays homage to the soundtrack of their youth.

One album I enjoyed last year was There's No Underground by Papernut Cambridge. A strong LP which mixed suburban sadness with soft psychedelia and '70s glam. It was a record that wore its influences on its sleeve. Those influences are now honoured in the form of 10 cover versions on their latest LP, Nutlets 1967-80.

It's a fan's labour of love. An unashamed sepia-toned trawl through the tracks of one's youth. At first glance it's a disparate selection of tunes but on listening it all makes sense. So what ties all these songs together? Apart from being of the same decade (almost), they all share a melodic inventiveness, invite you to sing along, and have a high feel-good factor.

There are big hits such as Jesamine and Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows by The Casuals and Edison Lighthouse respectively, along with tracks not so well served by oldies radio stations – Lynsey de Paul's Sugar Me, Alvin Stardust's Jealous Mind and What Ruth Said by Cockney Rebel. The album ends with PC's take on Mikey Dread's 1980 track Rockers Delight. The reggae rhythms slightly at odds with the rest of the album's bittersweet pop, though no less engaging.

The 1980 cut off point is telling. By this time Thatcher was in power, the Cold War was at its height, music was getting increasingly digital, more machine based and somehow colder and less human. And though things wouldn't always stay that way a chapter of pop's history had ended. This album serves as a fitting tribute to those times. Redolent of flared jeans, star jumpers, Angel Delight, Smash instant mash potato and spending pocket money on 7” singles sold from a provincial town's white goods store.

This idea of the 1970s as a golden age of innocence has since proved to be somewhat misguided but this collection proves that the decade did at least have some great tunes. Pop would never be so unashamedly catchy again. Hats off to Papernut Cambridge for highlighting these overlooked gems.

Nutlets 1967-80 is an infectious, highly enjoyable companion piece to There's No Underground, and as with their previous recorded output is available on various formats, each containing different versions and mixes. It will put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and tunes in your head that won't leave for days. You can't ask for much more than that can you.

Click here for Papernut Cambridge's website.
Click here for Papernut Cambridge on Twitter.
Click here for Gare Du Nord Records.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Interview with Ted Selke (The Seventh Ring Of Saturn)

One of the best albums I've been listening to this year is Ormythology by The Seventh Ring Of Saturn. The band have recently followed this up with an excellent double A-sided 7" single which sees the band return to their bubblegum rock/pop sound with cover versions of The Grateful Dead's Mountains Of The Moon and The Hollies' All The World Is Love. TSROS head honcho Ted Selke has very kindly agreed to share his thoughts on all things musical - discovering Middle Eastern music, favourite childhood 45s, studio techniques and more!

Click over the jump to read the interview.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Lancashire Hustlers – What Made Him Run

Conceptual pop for grownups! Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes' latest opus takes a rueful look at the corrupting nature of ambition.

The Lancashire Hustlers are a pair of northern émigrés, now resident in London. They've recently released What Made Him Run, the second in their proposed trilogy of 'pop operas'. Over the course of the album's richly arranged ten tracks we're told the story of one man's life. It's a tale of the corrupting effect of ambition, ruthlessness,and towards the end, the sad nature of regret. Almost like a mash-up of The Beatles' She's Leaving Home with The Wolf Of Wall Street. The album's protagonist is obviously in some sort of mid-life crisis, his tale told via some well-crafted, grown-up literary pop.

Taken as a whole it's a rewarding experience, but each individual track stands up well. Not least in part to the pairs' innate understanding of each others singing and playing. The are echoes of other great collaborative duos throughout, most obviously Difford and Tilbrook, Tim and Neil Finn and Lennon and McCartney. It also reminded me of the kind of song suite Ray Davies might have made during the 1970s as the soundtrack for a made for TV special. Factor in some some Everly Brothers' harmonies and some pre-fame Bowie folk-rock and you have a winning sound right there. But it's the meticulously crafted songs and cinematic sweep of story that impress the most.

The Lancashire Hustlers play The Stage Door, Waterloo, London on September 12th.

Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers' website.
Click here for The Lancashire Hustlers on Facebook.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Magic City Trio - A Funnel Cloud In Albuquerque EP

Southern Gothic tradition found alive and well in. Currently residing in the deep south of Blighty!

Despite the band's fascination with nascent Americana, The Magic City Trio actually hail from the deep south of good ol' Blighty, deep in the heart of London. Not for them is grime music or the kitchen-sink observational brit-pop one usually associates with the nation's capital . Instead they make music that owes more to the American deep south - supersticious settler music, pre-war old-timey ballads, God-fearing folk songs, Mariachi and early country music are the basic tenets of their sound. Throw in a bit of Spaghetti Western vibe, some Duane Eddy twang and you have a pretty tasty recipe!

The band have travelled and gigged extensively and have just released their debut EP, A Funnel Cloud In Albuquerque, which features the title track along with another original track (A Prayer For Hope And Happy Times), and a traditional Baptist Hymn (The Lone Pilgrim). The deluxe CD version also features alternate takes of the two original songs.

Fans of The Louvin Brothers, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, The Band, and early Americana in general will surely find much to like in their time and space hopping music. Look at for the band this year as they make a transatlantic tour of open mic nights. Even better get in touch and book them for a show or house gig.

The Magic City Trio are -

Frank Sweeney (guitar, vocals, harmonica)
Annie Holder (guitar, vocal, autoharp, kazoo)
Adi Staempfli (bass, vocals)

Click here for the band's website.
Click here for The Magic City Trio on Twitter.
Click here for The Magic City Trio on Facebook.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Bananas Magazine - Issue 11 OUT NOW!

Latest issue of garage, punk & psych zine, available from all good stores & distros is out now!

Always a pleasure to get hold of the latest Bananas Magazine and this issue doesn't disappoint. Alongside the sharp, insighful reviews there's the usual bumper-fest of features and interviews with the scene's latest movers and shakers. Bands such as Thee Marvin Gays, Thee Tsunamis and The Youth all share their thoughts with us humble readers, as do labels such as Dead Beat Records, State, and Hidden Volume.

If that's not enough there's volume 2 of their Bananas Peel Sessions, their accompanying online compilations. I've shared the Bandcamp link below but be sure to head over to the mag's website to check out the equally awesome volume 1, subscribe to the mag or track down those elusive back issues. For bonus fun play count the number of stripy breton tops in the mag's photos. No prizes though, this one's for fun only!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Will Z. - New Start

Inspired by Jain philosophy, Will Z.'s new album is one to immerse yourself in. A meditative spiritual journey unlike anything else you'll hear all year.

He may have the last name in the phone book but who is Will Z.? The answer is he's a singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist who first came to prominence as a member of Cosmic Trip Machine. His solo output has all had a similarly exploratory psychedelic bent, be it dark rock, folk or psych-pop. More recently his involvement with The Book Of Am project and work with Gong main man Daevid Allen (RIP), has lead him towards music of a more introspective, meditative nature. His latest outing is New Start, a serious though highly enjoyable and rewarding work inspired by Jain philosophy.

The album length release is broken down into six pieces, with each track based around a simple repeated musical phrase or motif which is then added to and embellished. With an emphasis on spirituality, philosophy and self improvement, the results are as meditative as the mandala on the record's sleeve. As the title infers there's something cleansing about this music, encouraging a dumping of previous methods and baggage, and replacing with a fresh approach, blank slate or beginner's mind.

Jain Devotion (Parts I – III) starts with a swampy, dense sound reminiscent of being in the deep rainforest. Eventually some electronic sound claw through the sonic swamp - morse, radar, and radio waves merging to find a harmonious drone. From this a slow mantra-like song builds, implying the beginning of a journey. And indeed it is, over the course of the album we're treated a delicious array of textures and musical pairings. From sitar and flute, oud and mellotron, to more familiar electric piano and bass. The overall effect is hypnotic, entrancing and nourishing. And best listened to in one devotional sitting. Turn off your phone, relax and float downstream indeed!

Click here for more from on Will Z.
Click here for Will Z. on Facebook.
Click here for the Mega Dodo Records website.

Crystal Jacqueline - Rainflower

Pastoral psychedelia, acid folk, bright psych-lite pop and a Status Quo cover! It's all there on the second solo LP from Devon's Crystal Jacqueline.

A glance at the track listing tells you something of this second solo LP from The Honey Pot vocalist Crystal Jacqueline. Multiple references to the seasons, nature, mysterious and unobtainable female spirits, all the hallmarks of an acid-folk album you'd think. A record in the vein of Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day or Shelagh McDonald's Stargazer. And that's true to a point but there's much more to it than that. From the almost industrial sounds of opening track Siren it's obvious things are not so clear cut. Leave your expectations at the door sonic travellers for scattered among the Nick Drake-esque pastoral folk tracks are enough surprises, twists and turns to make this a much more multi-hued and varied affair.

For a start there's the inclusion two cover versions. A stab at Status Quo's In My Chair and a lovely assured take on Pink Floyd's Grantchester Meadows. The former is a tight Chicago R&B shuffle, souped up with effects-laden guitars, whereas Grantchester Meadows blue-sky folk gets an added space-rock edge. Strange Bloom has echoes of San Francisco's golden era, all bluesy and meditative, whereas Daisy Chain is a bright, psych-lite pop tune that in a fairer world would have a stay in the top 20.

As the album title suggests Rainflower thematically revolves around nature, seasons and the weather. For all its sonic diversity these lyrical concerns somehow piece it all together. A celebration of deep-winter and high summer, there's mystery, folklore, the beauty of bloom and the beauty of decay. And for all it's modern production it still resonates with the wyrd, deep-rooted ways of Old England. An album to re-visit and treasure.

Click here for more from on Crystal Jacqueline.
Click here for the Mega Dodo Records website.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Vidunder - Son Of Every Lie NEW VIDEO + Tour Dates

Heavy blues rockers Vivunder are out on tour this month promoting their latest album Oracles And Prophets (Crusher Records). As a taster of what to expect check out this new video for Son Of Every Lie, taken from the album.

Those tour dates in full - 

JUN 12 - DE, Kassel, Goldgrube
JUN 13 - DE, Regensburg, Tiki Beat
JUN 14 - AT, Vienna, Arena, w/ Black Mountain
JUN 16 - XX, Secret Location, Secret Festival
JUN 17 - AT, Salzburg, Rockhouse
JUN 19 - IT, Castel d'Ario MN, Roccanroll Festival
JUN 20 - IT, Milano, Lo Fi Milano
JUN 21 - DE, Munich, Backstage, w/ Danava
JUN 22 - DE, Solingen, Waldmeister Club
JUN 23 - DE, Berlin, Tiefgrund, w/ Danava
JUN 24 - DE, Erfurt, Cafe Tiko
JUN 25 - DE, Leipzig, Goldhorn
JUN 26 - DE, Würzburg, Immerhin
JUN 27 - DE, Kiel, Kieler Woche

ARCHIVE REVIEW #27 - The Dirtbombs - Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey

I was reminded of this LP recently after discussing Bubblegum pop with a pal of mine. I dug it when it came out but it sounds even sweeter now! My original review ran on Subba Cultcha when the album was first released.

Mick Collins and co. finally release their much promised Bubblegum LP!

Think you know The Dirtbombs? Purveyors of Detroit garage rock for what seems like forever, with front man Mick Collins previously responsible for the force of nature that was The Gories? Yes that band. The band that have been promising an album of bubblegum pop for almost a decade, an album most people thought would never materialise. You could almost think of it as some sort of ruse or joke. Well that album is here and it's pretty damn good!

Quick history lesson – Bubblegum for those that don't know is a genre of music that was created by journeymen record producers back in the late '60s as a kid-friendly cash-in. With musical roots in the accessible end of flower-power, beat music and folk-rock, it was often fronted by manufactured cartoon friendly bands, blokes in animal costumes or actual cartoons. Think The Banana Splits, The Archies, or 1910 Fruitgum Company. Though despised by serious music fans at the time, it's since developed a kitsch charm and appeal.

There's something about the music of one's childhood, it's deeply ingrained and has a sway over you that the music you hear later doesn't. It's obvious listening to Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! (best album title of the year?) that Mick Collins has a deep affection for this music. The ten original songs pay homage to this strain of sunshine pop. It's twee, not in a sexless C86 way, there's just the right amount of fuzz and groove to keep the faithful happy.

Candy, ice cream, sunshine and fairground rides all get a look in on this LP of innocence re-found. The Gories this ain't, but it sure is fun dammit! I defy anyone to listen to the album's opening track “Sugar On Top” and not have a smile on their face. Also listen out for the deliberate melodic steal form The Beach Boys' “God Only Knows” on album closer “We Come In The Sunshine.”

Garage rock is a genre that often prides itself in being a ghetto. Mick Collins may upset the garage rock purists by opting to make music that has roots in exploitative pop, but hey how cool is it to exploit the exploiters! Sweet indeed!

Click here for The Dirtbombs on Twitter.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Seventh Ring Of Saturn - Ormythology

The long awaited second album from Atlanta's TSROS. Mixes psych-rock with middle eastern scales and rhythms in a most appealing way!

I first became aware of TSROS when they featured on Fruits De Mer Records' recent 7&7 Is box set of 7” singles covering The Grateful Dead. They were good at that but what's more of a revelation is the band doing their own material. Ormythology is the band's second full length album, several years in the making, self released on a lovingly hand-stamped CD. It contains a pleasing mix of what some people call college rock and music of an altogether more Byzantine/Arabesque nature.

Album opener “Burning A Hole” contains Nirvana-esque melodies, lyrics of a decidedly 1967 vintage (“cellophane sunflowers, what do you think about time?”) before nutmegging listeners with killer guitar solos that owe more to Turkish or Greek music than that of your more traditional guitar heroes. This is quickly followed by “Teli, Teli, Teli”, an instrumental which ups the Byzantine ante with guitar flights of fancy that both stretch out and wig-out in equal measure.

“Time To Fly” is a more straight ahead Anglo-American rocker, which brings to mind Teenage Fanclub or The Byrds, characterised by sumptuous vocal harmonies, and power-pop chord progressions. There's still room for the lead guitar to surprise and take the song somewhere new. Time To Fly indeed!

It's refreshing to know that some bands do look beyond the much mined seams of Hendrix, Page et al for their inspiration. Time signatures look beyond the usual rock-fayre, and the melodies are equally at home in a souk or incense filled temple as they are in a western rock venue. A cliche-free and illuminating experience is guaranteed for all who are adventurous enough to listen!

Click here for more from on The Seventh Ring Of Saturn.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Various – Momentary One & Two (Ltd. 7” singles)

Two very limited 7” singles featuring Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd covers! Available at the Fruits De Mer / Mega Dodo joint gig at Putney's Half Moon this Sunday! (24th May)

This weekend's hottest gig ticket is surely the Fruits De Mer/Mega Dodo all-dayer at Putney's Half Moon. Aside from the stellar line-up, there will also be ultra-desirable goodie bags for early arrivals. If that wasn't enough there'll also be a chance to get your your eager mitts on some other sonic items. Two of which being this pair of limited edition 7” singles featuring contemporary acts covering early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett tracks. Although they've been issued before on FDM's Momentary Lapse Of Reason double CD (available to “club members” only), this is their first airing on vinyl. Limited to only 300 copies each, chances are they won't be around for long.

Momentary One features is marked out by it's sumptuous female vocals, while Momentary Two is a Syd special. Floyd fans will love all seven tunes as there's nary a duff track among them. If I was pushed to pick a favourite I'd probably go for Max Kinghorn-Mills version of Dark Globe, dreamy, wistful and melancholic. It had me searching out Barrett's original version with fresh ears. But hey, that's just me. Track down this pair of 7”s if you can and pick your own favourite, they're all worthy!

Momentary One
  1. Ilona V – Golden Hair (Barrett)
  2. Crystal Jacqueline – Grantchester Meadows (Waters
  3. Cary Grace – Cirrus Minor (Waters)
Momentary Two
  1. Max Kinghorn-Mills – Dark Globe (Barrett)
  2. Caudio Cataldi – She Took A Long Cold Look (Barrett)
  3. The Chemistry Set – See Emily Play (Barrett)
  4. Todd Dillingham and Golly McCry – The Gnome (Barrett)

Click here for the Fruits De Mer Records website.
Click here for the Mega Dodo website.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Beau - Shoeless In The Desert

How I survived the aftermath of the general election with a little help from Kurt Vonnegut and Beau's latest LP.

After the all too depressing results of the recent general election sank in, and the prospect of another five years of Tory government became a reality, my Twitter feed turned quickly from pre-election optimism and hope, to despair and blame. It also filled with scaremongering about what we as a society needed to prepare ourselves for. There was one tweet, amongst the deluge, that stuck in my mind and seemed to sum up where our society is heading. It highlighted a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, about how the American poor are encouraged to despise themselves, perpetuating their position and lack of opportunity while bolstering that of the rich and powerful. This, Vonnegut states, is in contrast to many other countries which have folk tales that value wisdom over wealth, and virtue over self-serving ambition -

America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: “If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?” (Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse 5)

It's easy to see the parallels in modern Britain where our underclass is routinely ridiculed on TV, or attacked in the press, whereas corporations are free to avoid taxes if they pay enough donations to the right political parties. Timely then that the latest album from Beau should drop through my letterbox around the same time as did many electoral leaflets and voting reminders. It too chimes themes similar to those found in Slaughterhouse 5, along with other cautionary tales about corruption and misuse of wealth. Listening to Beau's latest work did give me some hope for the spiritual well being of our nation, which in the immediate wake of the election seemed somehow broken and in need of some TLC.

Shoeless In The Desert is a gentle compassionate album, and like those folk tales it champions wisdom and virtue. Recorded simply and in the timeless folk way of just voice and one 12-string guitar, no overdubs, it's an album that's all about melody and message. Themes spread across the album's fourteen songs include religion, immigration, environmental concerns, alongside more personal takes on relationships, ageing, and even a humorous sideswipe at coronary heart disease.

In our current sound-bite and shuffle era it's encouraging to see long-form songwriting done so well. And no wonder - Beau has been writing, recording and performing music for over four and a half decades. His early championing by John Peel tells you all you need to know about the calibre of his work. (Peel released Beau's debut as the first release on his Dandelion label). In a fairer world Beau would be a much valued cultural treasure, up alongside Dylan, Mitchell, Cohen and the like. As it is the world is not always fair, something that may become all too apparent over the next few years. Thankfully we have the likes of Beau to help fight our corner and cushion any blows. Long may it be so.

Click here for more from Beau.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Archive Interview #15 - James Skelly

As part of an occasional series I'll be posting archive interviews, pieces and reviews I've done for other sites over the years. This is a short but sweet interview I did with James Skelly (The Coral) centred around the release of his Love Undercover LP back in 2013. The Interview originally appeared on Subba-Cultcha.

June 3rd sees the release of Love Undercover, the debut album by James Skelly & The Intenders. Skelly is best known as the main vocalist and songwriter in The Coral, a band that have released a string of critically acclaimed albums, gaining Mercury nominations and the respect of their peers along the way. It's now three years since the last album Butterfly House. With no new Coral material on the horizon, having abandoned sessions with producer John Leckie for a sixth album half way through, the various members have kept themselves busy with side projects and solo albums. James' brother (and Coral drummer) Ian recently released his his album Cut From A Star, a record that maintains the Coral's gentle psychedelia. Hot on its heels comes older brother James' effort with new backing band The Intenders. It's an altogether more soulful, rootsy affair. though with just enough of The Coral's folk-rock to keep the faithful happy. Keen to point out that it's a group effort, the band will be touring throughout the summer (dates below). We caught up with James prior to the album's release to talk soul music, psych bands and gap years.

Harmonic Distortion – The album's opening track “You've Got It All” was co-written with Paul Weller. How did that come about and what's he like to work with?

James Skelly - He sent me a demo, but it had no words on it. He asked me if I could finish it, so I wrote the words and the chorus, and then we finished it in his studio. Ian loved the song and thought it would be right for the album, so I rang Weller and asked him if I could use it. He said yes.                                              
HD – There's are real live band dynamic on the album, and I know you're keen to point out the rest of the band's input on the album. Who have you got playing on the record and was there an instant chemistry when you all first got together in the rehearsal room?

JS - I played guitar & vocals, Paul Duffy - guitar, organ, & vocals, Alfie Skelly - guitar, Nick Power-piano, Ian Skelly - drums, James Redmond -bass. We've all played with each other before and we're all close friends, so it was very natural.                                                                                                                                                                                        
HD – You've worked with some big name producers in the past, whereas this record is self-produced. You obviously feel at home in the studio, are there any plans to do any more production work either for yourself for other artists?

JS - Yes, I love being in the studio and I've been working with a couple of young bands, Sundowners and The Circles, It's something I’d like to get into.                                                                                                                              
HD – Without going as far as to call Love Undercover a soul album, there's a definite Northern Soul/R&B vibe going on. Would that be an indication of what you've been listening to recently?

JS - I've always loved blues and soul music, I go through phases but that’s what I always go back to.                                    
HD – I'm really enjoying your song “Searching For The Sun”, could you tell us a little bit about how you wrote the song and what inspired it.

JS - I've had that song for a while, we demoed it with The Coral, then I demoed it. I ended up with something inbetween the two versions.               

HD – The songs on Love Undercover come across as less oblique than your songs for The Coral, there's a tenderness and warmth to a lot of the songs too. It seems to me these songs are a lot more personal than much of your previous work, would that be a fair observation?

JS - I'd say the songs are more direct. I wanted to get to the heart of the matter. I thought the lyrics on Butterfly House were as good as I was going to get in that style, so I felt it was time for a change.   
HD – I'd say there's a good case to be made for having one of the most instantly recognisable male voices from the last decade with Love Undercover containing some of your best vocal performances, there seems to be a real sense of spontaneity and joy in them. Who would you say were your main influences as a vocalist?

JS - Van Morrison, Steve Marriott, Ronnie Spector, Dion DiMucci, Bob Marley, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Ben E. King, Robert Johnson, Willie Deville, I could go on, but I'll leave it there.                                                                                                                                                            
HD - Would you say there was less pressure and expectation on this record than say there would be on a Coral album?

JS - In a way, because I only had to answer to myself, but I'm my harshest critic, so it didn’t make a big difference.              

HD – Sorry to bring up the C-word but I have to ask, it's three years since Butterfly House was released, is there likely to be another Coral album or tour at any time in the near future?

JS - Yes, I hope so, it has to be right though, I wouldn’t want to do it just for the sake of it.                                                          
HD – Your song “I'm A Man” has that Arthur Lee-style Mariachi vibe on it, I'm assuming you still dig Love, Beefheart and all? Do you keep up with any of the current crop of psychedelic flavoured acts such Temples or Jacco Gardner?

JS - I've heard Temples, it's good but there's a lot of lo-fi stuff around, I’m waiting for a young band to come and smash it.

HD – The song “Darkest Days” is a sublime ending to the record, with warm sentiments that characterise much of the album. Do you find yourself getting more drawn towards introspection as you get older?

JS - I've always been like that, I'm just hiding it less these days.                                                                                          
HD – You've been releasing critically acclaimed music for over twelve years. So many flavour-of-the-month bands have come and gone, yet you're still around, without courting the gossip columns, and still making great music. What do you put this longevity down to?

JS - I'd still be doing it even if no one was listening. It's all I know. I get the impression a lot of bands are just on a gap year.