1 Oct 2014

Free Download Roundup: The Foreign Films, Sky Children, Adam Leonard


Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Foreign Films "The Record Collector"
Guitar-pop maestro Bill Majoros is pretty confident that his upcoming double album as The Foreign Films ,"The Record Collector" is pretty flash. So confident in fact, that he's giving it away a side at a time through his Bandcamp page before its full release next year. The first side on offer (side two if you're keeping count) certainly whets the appetite, being comprised of five tracks that cumulatively are better than the best five tracks from a lot albums I've heard this year. With three sides still to come, this bodes very well. These songs are Majoros at his best, contemporary, but with plentiful references to classic sixties pop and beyond. Majoros is a literate storyteller, with a vast, cinematic production style that casts highlights here like the Nancy & Lee style "Teardrop Town" in a fresh, but reverential light.
Follow The Foreign Films on Facebook here to be advised when further sides are available, and download this side right here:



The Sky Children
With a name borrowed from Peter Daltrey's Kaleidoscope, you know that the folk(s) behind Hungarian spacey dream-pop group Sky Children have got great taste, and with their debut full-length they manage to channel that taste into an appealingly tuneful album. Psychedelic pop songs given a dream pop makeover, the tunes here are largely built upon Beatlesque chord sequences and vocal melodies, awash with spacey dreampop textures that give them a trippy, contemporary sheen. And with tracks like "Jazzy Starfairy" and "Why Don't Ya Come With Us" they have memorable, hooky songs that burrow their way into the subconscious in an unexpectedly forceful manner for tunes that give the impression of drifting lazily past on a Summer's breeze.
Quite lovely, and free to download here:



Adam Leonard "Octopus Parts 2 & 3"
"8 releases over 8 consecutive months, each containing 8 tracks. An audio retrospective of Adam Leonard's recorded work over the last decade, under his own name, pseudonyms, side-projects and collaborations, bringing together music from sold-out limited edition releases, album outtakes, demos, live versions, soundtrack work, BBC sessions and cover versions. All eight 'tentacles' features previously unreleased material. Stylistically impossible to pin down 'Octopus' issues forth Ivor Cutler-style harmonium dirges, acoustic guitar/vocal visions, pulsing analogue electronics, laptop prog, spooky instrumentals, glassy-eyed drones, piano torch songs and ... more."
Adam's rewarding cupboard clearing exercise (which I told you about in more detail here) continues with the second and third parts showing no signs of lagging. There's covers of the Beatles, the Kitchen Cynics and Jethro Tull, but it's Adam's own material that is often the most riveting. The odd diversion into jarring, glitchy electro-pop aside (I'm looking at you "Tsunami"), this is solid acid folk, with more pop smarts, and focus than one would usually expect from the genre. The tracks are, more often than not, sparsely arranged with eerie, psychedelic flourishes which embellish Leonard's odd tales nicely, without hampering his storytelling.
If the idea of a Roy Harper or Nigel Mazlyn Jones with the off-kilter pop smarts of Robyn Hitchcock or Syd Barrett appeals, then I would bid you to hasten to the free download link here for Part 2, with Part 3 due on the 8th of October.

29 Sep 2014

Album Review: Lutine "White Flowers"


Reviewed by Nathan Ford

"White Flowers" is quite the debut from the Brighton based folk duo of Emma Morton and Heather Minor. On paper, Lutine seem like an odd choice for release on the Front & Follow label ( who I associate more with hauntologial left-field electronica), but Morton and Minor are not your everyday folk duo, as those who listen will quickly discover.

These songstresses, while still deeply rooted in traditional English folk song ( to the point where I had to check several times to see whether I was listening to an original or a Childe ballad) are very obviously a product of the 21st Century, and have as much in common with the Finders Keepers stable (Emma Tricca, Jane Weaver) as they do Anne Briggs or the Collins sisters. Sinister drones often lurk just audibly under the surface of their vocals, creating a suitable sense of unease for their dark, mysterious tales of murder and misfortune. Moody electric piano, zither and cello also help to recontextualise these ancient folk forms into something more malleable and contemporary.

And I haven't even mentioned their voices yet, which intertwine with a natural ease; Heather's dexterous tones joining Emma's soprano at invariably the right moment to heighten the drama, or sugarcoat the delivery of a particularly heartwrenching line. Quite marvelous.

Fans of Beth Gibbons, Anne Briggs and This Mortal Coil will find much to enjoy here, as will those who wish the Unthanks would try their hand at something a little darker and grittier.

"White Flowers" is available on CD, and digital download..

Album Review: Goat "Commune"


Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Goat's new opus, highly anticipated following the critical acclaim and success of their debut album "World Music" and follow up live recording "Live Ballroom Ritual", is finally released to an expectant and now substantial audience. When they emerged a few years back, Goat’s merging of the theatrical (such as their masked shenanigans in their live shows and promo shots) with a mixture of psych trance rock and afro and world beat rhythms was completely unexpected and a breath (or rush) of much needed creativity and fresh air. This only adds pressure for new long player "Commune" to live up to the heady heights of previous outings. I am delighted to confirm that it does so and much, much more besides. Read on gentle listener and enter the magical, strange and transcendent world of Goat.

The hesitant and lonely rhythm of "Talk to God" opens the album; spiraling, building and layering until, almost unwittingly you find yourself in a whirlwind of cascading drums and fizzing, buzzing guitar. Both hypnotic and transcendent, it is spellbinding. Coming at the listener sideways, "Words" has an enormous electronic reverberating wave of percussion which sets the pace for the subsequent chanted vocals. Almost desert rock in its widescreen approach, this is Jimi Hendrix jamming with Aphex Twin meets Sly and The Family Stone. It’s that good. By contrast "The Light Within" is a classic vintage sounding piece of wah-wah inflected seventies style wig out space rock. Yet there is something more spacious in Goat's sound this time around, more delicate perhaps, of intricacy between the clamour of screaming guitar and urgent percussion. "To Travel The Path Unknown" begins with an echoed, quasi-mystical invocation to 'the one true force in the universe' and, with tongue planted firmly in its cheek, the song then sets off on a Morricone bent complete with whip cracking bells and twanged, resonating guitar. These merge with lonesome flute trills to provide the soundtrack to some as yet unwritten Swedish western; it's that strange and yet that invigorating. Indeed, Goat are truly exciting as a band; their seemingly unhinged jams are actually tightly controlled and dynamic, building into crafted explosions of harmony and stomach lurching launches into careful, deeply memorable guitar lines and riffs. A prime example of this, "Goatchild" is a call and response male and female vocal psychedelic masterpiece that is destined to be a live showpiece. Indeed, as great as Goat are on record, you get the sense that these songs will crackle and burn live when teamed with the masks and elaborate costumed performance that has become their trademark. "Goatslaves" enters with a "Warrior on The Edge Of Time" style spoken intro before a house quaking Kasabian bass line takes us into another full on Goat guitar monster; the band perhaps have a limited amount of components in their bag of tricks but they seemingly have endless and myriad ways to fit these together. And when music is this exhilarating, you don't want any let up or wild forays into un-Goat like territory. It would be distracting and ultimately, a come down. "Hide From The Sun" sounds vintage, I suspect that Goat have invested in some old tube stack amps for the making of this album and it fits perfectly with their timeless modus operandi of mostly instrumental psyche guitar freakouts. Wisps of echoed and chanted vocals ride the waves of dark, urgent fuzz and surf guitar, a hint of sitar adding the element of mystery and otherworldliness. An album standout amongst a collection of treasures, this is a heart racing and beautifully exultant song, at once uplifting and yet ominous and strange. "Bondeye" is a mid-paced melodic exercise in restraint, the drums and guitars holding the tension and harmonies whilst always threatening to truly take off into the stratosphere. In some bizarre way Goat are almost a Shadows for the millennial age; highly catchy and melodic guitar lines form the basis of their music and they are soundtrack-like in their atmospheres and motifs. However Hank Marvin would need to have ingested several tonnes of psychedelics and be wearing a deer mask to even come near to achieving what this band does. "Gathering of Ancient Tribes" is an epic closer (although Goat are always epic, make no mistake); a collision of sixties style drum fills and vocal chants that recall some of Jane's Addictions most exhilarating moments merge with constant and solid guitar genius. Feedback howls build to eventually lead into the promised full-on screaming overload of Goat with their amps turned up to, ahem, eleven. A shimmering wave of vocal dissonance hovers over the wig-out until it all runs to a close, feedback drone echoing long past the end of the song. It is both breathtaking and bewildering; you are left thinking 'what have I just heard'? Just perfect.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. When they first appeared Goat seemingly came from nowhere; their psychedelic monoliths fully formed. And they show no sign of leaving or of let up in their singular mission. They are a truly exciting band, not cerebral but purely physical. You feel this music in your heart, lungs and stomach. Come, commune with Goat. You will not be disappointed that you did.

"Commune" is available here on vinyl, vinyl with bonus 7", and CD.

27 Sep 2014

Album Review: Soft Hearted Scientists "The Slow Cyclone"


Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Softie's previous effort "False Lights" was my top album of 2013, so it won't surprise you to learn that its follow up, "The Slow Cyclone" has been much anticipated in these quarters. Their blend of the childlike and the subversively sinister, is certainly not one that is destined for mainstream success, but there's a reason that fans of the band tend towards the obsessive, and "The Slow Cyclone" is as good a place as any to begin obsessing.

Where "False Lights" was (at least comparatively) concise, "The Slow Cyclone" is a sprawling opus of an album, stylistically diverse enough to at least imply a "White Album" sort of status.

Recorded piecemeal in three home studios, the album is split into four, side length collections of songs, interspersed with effective fragmentary interludes which range from BBC Radiophonic Workshop style synth burblings, to lovely baroque harpsichord pieces that those visited less often by their muse would feel impelled to get more mileage from.

More often than not though, the tunes on "The Slow Cyclone"are fully developed and quite, quite lovely. Chief scientist Nathan Hall dominates as usual, with his layered production style combining perfectly with hypnotic, circular melodies that sound immediately familiar, and reveal deeper pleasures on repeat listens. You're unlikely to hear a catchier song this year than "The Ups & The Downs" or "Hermit Crab". The increased playing time also allows other scientists the opportunity to shine, with the lovely "Sonar Rays" making the waiting time between Fleet Foxes projects a little easier to tolerate, while "For You" would make a suitable sparring partner for Candidate's better moments.

And there's plenty more to discover too, with each play revealing hitherto unsuspected melodic twists amidst its rambling narrative, suggesting that it's an album which is likely to continue offering surprises well into the future.

This is one to get cosy with and spend some time soaking up.

"The Slow Cyclone" is available on CD, and as a digital download.


Hypeworthy New & Upcoming Releases - Delia Derbyshire & Anthony Newley / Braen Raskovich / Green Pajamas / The Laze

Delia Derbyshire & Anthony Newley "Moogies Bloogies"
These unreleased and important historic recordings were made by Delia Derbyshire and Anthony Newley. Musically this has to be one of the most brilliant, unexpected and lost collaborations in the history of both these exceptional artists.
This rare and until now, unissued recording started life way back in 1966. It was written by the multi-talented Anthony Newley (who also wrote hits such as "Feeling Good", "Goldfinger", the "Willy Wonka" soundtrack music etc), maybe for a pop release, but possibly - bearing in mind the kinky nature of the lyrics - for an experimental British TV show he was working on at the time. Unusually he wanted some electronic backgrounds for his words, and so called in the help of Delia Derbyshire, moonlighting from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. They met at her flat in Maida Vale to discuss the project and he commissioned her. Legend has it that Joan and Jackie Collins gave Newley a lift there and were waiting outside for him in the car (Joan went on to marry Newley). By the time the tracks were finally completed Newley was already on his way to the USA for further acting and songwriting commitments, and the track has remained in his archive ever since.
One listen to "Moogies Bloogies" and you can tell this is classic Newley, with his hooky lyrics burying themselves deep in your brain, and his delivery demonstrating clearly his strong influence on artists such as David Bowie and Damon Albarn. Also, you hear how superbly Delia’s sound compliments his delivery. It’s a work of double genius. To be slightly clearer on Newley’s influences, he used the rare East End slang term "Bloogies" which means "off colour, not quite feeling yourself". According to Martin Guy at WikiDelia.com, Derbyshire’s "Moogies Bloogies" backing originates from simple sine tones, and "Delia spent 64½ hours working on this piece every day from the 2nd to the 11th of August 1966 including a single monster session of 16½ hours on the 9th and a "radical rethink" on the night of Wednesday 10th". The music was also played out once (we assume without the lyrics and without Newley) at one of the Unit Delta Plus legendary concert events.
Apparently Derbyshire was originally not too pleased with the musical results, but came to love "Moogies Bloogies" later in her life.
We can’t escape the fact that that this unique recording is the result of a most extraordinary and wholly unexpected collaboration, a bizarre blip in the history of both these fascinating and important artists; it’s the first we know of Delia collaborating for a pop idea. And the first time we know of Newley working with electronics. Thanks to this first ever pressing they can begin a whole new trip into the minds of musical collectors everywhere.
All cues mastered and sequenced by Jon Brooks, AKA The Advisory Circle.
The 7" is available here, and there's also a digital version available here.

Braen Raskovich "Abnormal Sensations"
Another great giallo / library / psychedelic vinyl release from Finders Keepers Records.
Commercially unreleased album by the Italian soundtrack psych holy trinity publically known as The Pawnshop. Working under the guises of Braen, Raskovich and Kema the trio's only LP project shrouded the identities of Alessandro Alessandroni, Gulliano Sorgini and Giulia De Mutiis providing a genuine bloodline between records like "All The Colours Of The Dark", "The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue" and the rare Braen's Machine LPs - combining an inimitable blend of avant garde and occultish stoner psych with extra creative flourishes from a lesser-heard important Italian femme artiste.
Vinyl available here. Digital version available here.

Green Pajamas "Happy Halloween!"
"Happy Halloween!" is the grand finale in Green Monkey Records series of amazing, early, barely released Green Pajamas material. The original 8-song "Happy Halloween!" cassette was released thirty years ago this month, on October 20, 1984. For this release Green Monkey have added 13 mostly unreleased PJ’s songs recorded in an 8-month period between "Summer of Lust" and their first single, "Kim the Waitress." A few, like "Thinking Only of You" saw very limited release on the occasional comp here and there and have been highly sought commodities among Green Pajamas collectors. The first fifty copies are a limited edition; hand-numbered and autographed by Jeff and Joe. The numbered discs will be sold exclusively through GMR and can be had here if you are real quick. There's also a digital version available here.
 
The Laze "The Phantom of the Opera"
A brand new modern re-score for the classic 1925 horror film, composed & performed by UK septet The Laze. The Laze have developed quite a reputation across the UK for their spine-tingling live performances and expansive soundscapes. Influenced by a history of horror soundtracks, from Bernard Hermann & Angelo Badalamenti to Goblin & John Carpenter, The Laze implemented elements of progressive rock, classical, jazz, heavy metal & electronica in their score. The original soundtrack will be the group's fourth long-player. This new sonic adaptation comes on deluxe tip-on gatefold packed vinyl editions, compact disc & cassette. Featuring original black and silver artworks by LUKE INSECT & KEN GOODALL (The Human League, "A Field In England", Death Waltz Records,...) Vinyl versions are packaged in a deluxe tip-on jacket with artworks in black & silver by Luke Insect & Ken Goodall (The Human League, A Field In England, Deathwaltz Records,...)
Available on vinyl here, and on CD here.

26 Sep 2014

The Active Listener Sampler #24 Out Now!


This month's sampler is out now, with artwork once again by the fantastic Eric Adrian Lee.

1. Heaven's Gateway Drugs - Apropos. From the upcoming second album, due in October.
2. EDJ - The Mountains on Fire (In The Rearview). From the album "EDJ", out now on Easy Sound.
3. The Autumn Stone - The River Song. From the album "Beautiful Freaks", out now.
4. The Ilk - Powerplant. From the album "The New Dark Age", out now.
5. Papernut Cambridge - When She Said, What She Said (Extended Active Listener Mix). Original version available on the album "New Underground", out in October on Gare Du Nord.
6. Holögrama - In Your Head. From the upcoming album "Waves", out soon on Trouble in Mind Records.
7. Espectrostatic - Escape from Witchtropolis. From the upcoming album "Escape from Witchtropolis", out soon on Trouble in Mind Records.
8. Cosmic Analog Ensemble - Murs Libres. From the album "La Fonte des Glaces", out now as a free download.
9. Heed The Thunder - Horrible Condition. From the album "Cokaigne", out now.
10. Klaus Morlock - The Derelict Nursery. From the album "The Bridmore Lodge Tapes", out now from Reverb Worship.
11. Dodson And Fogg - When You Were Young. From the album "In a Strange Slumber", out now.
12. Ripe - Eyes and Mind. Ripe on Soundcloud.
13. Montibus Communitas - The Pilgrim At The Shrine. From the album "The Pilgrim to the Absolute", out September 30 on Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records.
14. Slow Motion Rider - Never Blue. Slated to appear on a future Slow Motion Rider album.
15. The Sunchymes - Mr Buckstone. From the digital single Mr Buckstone.

You can download it right here:

Album Review: Dodson And Fogg "In A Strange Slumber"


Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

It's always a delight when word of a new Dodson And Fogg album is whispered on the world wide web; thankfully due to the prolific nature of main man Chris Wade this is not an altogether rare occurrence. This new opus comes bearing the familiar and welcome hall marks of a classic Dodson album - the intricate and otherworldly sleeve illustration by wife Linzi and the impressive list of collaborators, this time including actor Nigel Planer (perhaps best known from his Comic Strip work), frequent foil Celia Humphris of legendary acid folk band Trees, Alison O'Donnell of the equally legendary Mellow Candle, Kevin Scott of Mr Pine and sitar player Ricky Romain. "In A Strange Slumber", in Chris's own words, "centres around the concept of dreams and death, and the connections between both subjects". Ambitious yet inclusive and inviting in its instant melodic appeal this is a concept album that can be listened to on a number of different levels, each equally enjoyable and entrancing.

Opener "The Dance" is a slight departure for Dodson, featuring as it does a folk inflected mandolin reel. Yet the familiar psych touches are evident and the ease with melody that is so inherent on Dodson's releases is on full display here. "I'm Coming Back" begins with a tense fingerpicked melody of descending arpeggios, again sounding almost folk in its recalling of the work of John Renbourn or perhaps The Strawbs. Indeed there is a "From The Witchwood" feel to the track as Wade's vocals merge with that of Humphris in an acoustic reverie of harmony and haze, bursts of electric guitar and organ adding to the 'classic' feel of the music. If previous Dodson albums had 1960s inflections this is perhaps where they draw from the well of 1970's revered and classic rock to add to their own unique and recognisable stylings. A trumpet refrain leads the song out on a burst of wild freeform guitar; Dodson are masters at the building and layering of a song into something almost transcendent and deeply thrilling. By contrast "When You Were Young" is a moody, brooding psych rock anthem in the mould of Ray Davies. Harmonising with himself, Wade turns this track into a blistering yet melancholy reflection on lost youth. "Along The Way" is a complex, Spanish guitar inflected tango, frequent time signature changes leading into certainly the best bit of fuzz guitar you will hear this year. Drinking from the bountiful cup of Love's "Forever Changes" but with extra wistfulness and a menacing sense of tension this is classic Dodson. In fact, it is just classic full stop. The title track is a truly beautiful and beatific psychedelic whirl through bells, xylophone, violin and keyboard; an Alice In Wonderland waltz through a Victorian garden of melody. "Entrepreneur In The Garden" introduces Nigel Planer as narrator in a humorous and bizarre tale of the unwanted protagonist of the title. There's a touch of "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End" here or the perhaps the Pythons, a surreal and brilliantly English whimsy at its heart. It says much for Dodson's sheer creativity and willingness to experiment and push their sound into new pastures.

Make no mistake, Dodson are an ideas band who are not straight jacketed into any one particular genre or style. Yet their music is consistent, you can spot a Dodson song due to the song writing finesse and Wade's melodic vocals. It is this balance between identity and melody yet with an urge to experiment and include all kinds of influences and creative urges that make Dodson so unique and essential. "By Your Side" is a hazy and narcotic mantra, a tabla driven late summer love song whilst "A Day In Your Life' has echoes of psych master Paul Roland in its shimmering yet quirky acoustic finesse. Perhaps the most overtly psych track on the album, there is a nostalgic English air in its trumpet refrain and sense of melancholy. However this nostalgia could just as easily be for the England of the sixties as the Victorian England of Lewis Carroll and it is absolutely spellbinding. 'The Wind" takes a detour into organ based, slightly sinister 60s psych, the ghost of Syd Barrett in its minor and flat key unworldliness and unsettling crescendos. "Never Be Alone" by turn is a full on fuzz rock masterpiece, eerie organ and urgent sitar punctuating the strident guitar riffage, not unlike if Chrome had emerged with their psyche space punk in the early seventies rather than later on in that decade. Reverbed guitar slows the track into a more meditative pace, duelling with the sitar until the tension fades into silence. It is both unpredictable and properly exciting; it is not often music is this attention grabbing and thrilling. "When I See Her" is recognisably Dodson; instantly memorable and yearning, a perfect pop song with odd little corners and angles. "Clunes The Gravedigger" is another darkly eccentric and funny tale of the unusual featuring Nigel Planer. These punctuations to the musical side of the album fit seamlessly and only add to the sense of ingenuity and creativity on show here. Indeed they contribute to the timeless and anglophile atmosphere; the spectres of Vivian Stanshall and Bob Calvert are smiling upon this music. "Don't You Pass Me By" is a Bolan-esque mid paced wonder; electric guitar unfurling around wisps of violin and Wade's evocative vocals. As a guitar player Wade needs special mention; he flits between styles, masterly control and melody as well as momentous freeform wig outs with seeming ease. And the guitar always feels essential to the song; no indulgent bar band or 'rawk' solos here. "A Sweet And Strange Surprise" is utterly beautiful, Kevin Scott's piano glistening across guitar trills, hushed cymbals and acid folk legend Alison O’Donnell’s choir like vocals in a song that is both wistful and hopeful. As an album closer it is breathtaking and energising; it leaves us hungry for more. If this was on vinyl (and it should be) I’d be flipping the record back to start at side one again.

It is becoming clear that Dodson may well be the most important and vital psych band operating at the moment. Close your eyes, begin to drift into dream and enter the strange slumber of Dodson And Fogg. It may well be a trippy and unusual ride but one you will want to come back to again and again.

Available from Dodson And Fogg's bandcamp site as a download or their website as a CD, with the option of a package including a signed print of the inner cover art.

25 Sep 2014

New Active Listener Records Release Available Now - The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (Free Album Download)


Everyone's favourite psychedelic surfers The Blue Giant Zeta Puppies (who will be familiar to Fruits de Mer Records fans), have unleashed their full length debut "12 Theories of Time Travel" on Active Listener Records.

 "......Ethereal and interstellar, 40 Million Miles To Earth is filled with the wonder and awe of deep space intoxica........" Justin Hayes, CD Notes, Surfrockmusic.com

Taking their DIY recording philosophy from Joe Meek and musical influences from the likes of Roky Erickson, The Flaming Lips and The Moontrekkers, the 'Puppies were planned as a band with members depending on whoever "...happened to be passing..." peddling their chaotic brand of Psychedelia tinged, Echo smothered, Alt-Surf-Rock since 2010.

Get it here:

Album Review: Tinariwen "The Radio Tisdas Sessions" / "Amassakoul"


Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub
New vinyl issues from Modern Classics / Light In the Attic Records

Let me begin this review by stating that I am not an expert in any African music. My knowledge isn’t that broad and it isn’t that deep. But recently, I have been on a bit of an African music tear, listening to a lot of music from the continent. It’s a sudden interest that has been sparked by the release of several outstanding albums and retrospectives, including releases from: Bombino, The Dur-Dur Band, Joseph Kabasele, Etran Finatawa, and Tinariwen.

Speaking of Tinariwen, that band’s first two albums have been given their first-ever vinyl release by the folks over at Light In the Attic Records. And they are something very wonderful, indeed.

Nobody is going to argue against the fact that the blues is an American art form. But it does have its roots in sub-Saharan Africa. And, in recent years, it has become ever more apparent that the musicians of North Africa, Tinawiren among them, are reclaiming this music for their own continent and for themselves.

The Tuaregs are a nomadic people that have been further displaced by political and social upheaval in the region around Libya and Mali. If anyone has the right to sing the blues, it is they. And reading the translations, their suffering is apparent:

“You who are organised,
assembled, walking together.
Hand in hand, you’re living.
A path which is empty of meaning.
In truth, you’re all alone”

A people without a country.

Getting to the sound of the band: it is definitely Arabic; with hand percussion and modal melodies that are typical of the region. And yet, electric guitars help make the overall effect, somehow, very familiar. The vocals are, for the most part, sung by a single lead singer, being responded to by a larger chorus of voices; it’s somewhat reminiscent of a gospel choir, albeit in structure only. And then there are those guitars, which, at times, can be reminiscent of Keith Richards’ rhythm playing, or even a straight 12-bar blues, if taken out of context.

But then, context is everything, isn’t it? And while the guitars can be 'bluesy', context constantly reminds one that this is no "Sticky Fingers".

Of the two albums being offered by Light In the Attic, the debut, "Radio Tisdas", is a bit more open, and a bit more Saharan—less Western. The electric guitars are less rock and more rolling sand dunes. In fact, the first two songs ("Le Chant De Fauves" and "Nar Djenetbouba") barely have anything of the sound of the blues, outside of some of the syncopation and a bit of the shuffling rhythm. It’s only when the third track ("Imidiwaren") opens with a single guitar playing what could only referred to as a 'jam', that the Western influence becomes apparent. The next song, "Zin Es Gourmeden" does the same, only with more of an edge. From there the album rolls along, pulling you in with its syncopated rhythms and group chemistry. It sounds like a communal celebration of all that is right (and wrong) with the world.

The second album, "Amassakoul", swings a bit harder, even rocks in places. The guitars have more presence and even a bit of grit.

The first song "Amassakoul 'N'Ténéré" begins with a shuffling rhythm that gets the head nodding and the shoulders swaying. "Oualahila Ar Tesninam" follows with a quicker tempo and the guitars turned up to the point where you can hear a little bit of distortion. Definitely more rock; even a bit dangerous. While the rest of the album does have quieter moments, even then "Amassakoul" sounds a bit more desperate: edgier and ready to take off into full-rock mode. But it never does, and that is no detriment to the music. Because the percussion, the handclaps, and the modality of it all provide the context that reminds you that you are listening to a foreign sound  and you shouldn’t really expect to rock. Just roll with it. It’s lovely stuff.

"The Radio Tisdas Sessions" is available on vinyl here.
"Amassakoul" is available on vinyl here.

 

24 Sep 2014

Album Review: Klaus Morlock "The Bridmore Lodge Tapes"


Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Of late, a number of mysterious and cobwebbed artifacts have emerged from the shadows and crypt of lost film reels and accompanying soundtracks. And now here is something equally unusual, strange and rare; "The Bridmore Lodge Tapes".

The Tapes are a much talked about but rare and often thought lost musical venture by English born German composer Klaus Morlock, primarily known at the time for his electronic based compositions and soundtracks for various 1970s European horror movies. A known occultist, Morlock recorded his opus in the abandoned residence of the title where it was said that a horrific series of events led to the previous occupants’ child dying in a mysterious and unexplained manner. Curiously this event seems to have bled through into the titles of the pieces on the album; Morlock’s supposed solitude during the recording undoubtedly also influencing this strange and unsettling album. Recorded between 1976 and 1977 on instruments allegedly loaned to him by Jimmy Page, this is both one of the most affecting and unusual albums you will ever hear.

"Wake" opens the album, electronic breaths reverberating and echoing over a tense vibrating rhythm as single icy notes are plucked from the darkness. At once instantly melodic yet hugely disquieting it sounds like the analogue creation of an especially demented and possessed Jean Michel Jarre digesting the back catalogue of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It is also completely transfixing and utterly brilliant. "Watching The Girl from the Village" is more sinister yet, whirrs and keyboard squelches adding menace to the steady and stalking harmony. The track descends into bursts of disturbing synth screams and noise, human breathing this time around providing an urgent and unquiet rhythm, before returning to the quiet hypnotizing central melody. "Her Dark Magick" is a melancholy and yearning piece of electronic flute with reverbed strings and is utterly beautiful in its vintage orchestration. There was clearly something altogether lonely and melancholic within Morlock during the making of this piece; this sense pervades the album just as much as the more disturbing and sinister elements, adding hidden depths and layers to the compositions. Similarly "Nocturne for Judy" is a solo piano piece of unease and emptiness, a dusty and forgotten sense of sadness lurking around the dimming glow of rural twilight. There is an atmosphere of folk horror inherent here, of a rustic and autumnal solitude where, despite the gentle hues and silence, there is a whispering wind rustling through the trees telling us we are not alone. "Please Reveal Yourself" is a classic piece of seventies electronica, and one which future hauntological enthusiasts such as Ghost Box, Belbury Poly and The Moonwiring Club would seek to emulate. Shimmering keyboard appregios provide a steady base from which doom-laden,ominous strings sing out; an orchestra from hell perhaps but a powerful and stirring one nonetheless. "This Was Judy's Room" is a haunting and ghost filled elegy, electronic piccato strings picking out the song’s refrain over treated and synthesised guitar. Reminiscent of classic 1970s horror soundtracks such as "Lets Scare Jessica to Death", it is a captivating and chilling piece. "Night Sweat" introduces disembodied electronic free form jazz percussion and time signatures to the atmospherics, echoing keyboard wails and hums reminding this listener of the soundtrack music to such apocalyptic classic as "The Quatermass Conclusion" or Terry Nation's "Survivors". "Untitled Fragment"s choral melody (or malady) adds a sacred and hymnal feel to the hypnotic beat, a spooked out Popol Vuh. Morlock may have been unhinged by the forces around him, or simply his own descent into solitude and madness whilst recording, but he never lost his keen sense of melody that is both affecting and altogether human. This is electronic music but with a scared and pulsating beating human heart. "The Toy Carousel" is a twisted, otherworldly and nauseous fairground ride; a "Carnival of Souls" indeed. It is also spellbindingly beautiful. "The Sick Child" by turn is a plaintive and mellotron filled, ominous warning of a track; the tension is palpable and the descending piano notes bone chilling in their cold and glistening beauty. An off key music box melody ends the song, merging into squalls of electronic noise; a suggestion of madness and malevolence. "The Derelict Nursery" returns to the piano led melancholy of earlier in the album but with a sense of urgency.

The sounds which Morlock was unleashing from his array of vintage keyboards and equipment are astonishing; from the quietest and most sensitive elements such as the track in question to the air raid wail of electrified wind in "The Unmarked Grave" he is an expert musical storyteller. We see these songs as much as hear them; they conjure up images and back stories just as much as provide a soundscape. Indeed in some cases, this is achieved to a chilling, almost uncomfortable yet masterful extent. "The Unmarked Grave" ends on a backwards loop, the album closer "The Child Garden" echoing with a child's voice and a creeping, rasping hum before harpsichord and orchestrated woodwind emerge; it is a shiver down your spine moment. If Kraftwerk composed horror movie soundtracks it may well have sounded a little like this.

Morlock now appears to have completely disappeared. No-one now knows where he is or what his recollections of this unique recording are. All that is left is his incredible musical tale, an album so unlike anything else in its intensity and creativity that it gets under your skin and raises the hairs on your arms and neck. You must hear this album, but not alone and not with the lights off....

Available now in an individually handmade sleeve by the ever splendid Reverb Worship. This archive release is limited though, so do not delay.

Update(25/9/14): Reverb Worship's CD is now sold out, but you can stream or download the whole thing here: