17 Sep 2014

Hypeworthy Upcoming Releases: Dunedin Underground Pop Compilation, Maston, Children of Leir

T E M P O R A R Y - Selections from Dunedin's Pop Underground 2011 - 2014 is the name of a new Vinyl / CD / digital collection from Dunedin's Fishrider Records, featuring lauded artists like Trick Mammoth, Opposite Sex, Males, The Prophet Hens & The Shifting Sands. It goes a long way to proving that Flying Nun isn't the beginning and the end of the Dunedin music scene (although Flying Nun fans will find much to enjoy amidst the jangle here),and that the scene is still incredibly vibrant.

It can be had here right now (shipping from New Zealand), or U.K / European peeps will be able to pick it up a little more cheaply through Amazon from September 22.

Stroll On Records (home of the excellent Triptides) have had a dig around in our favourite psychedelic pop maverick Maston's cupboards for their next release, "The Opal Collection". Frank Maston's Trouble in Mind album debut was made up partially of new tracks and partially from material from two excellent and now out of print E.Ps. "The Opal Collection" fills in the gaps with the rest of the material from those E.Ps as well as previously unreleased songs recorded around the same time. If you've got the Trouble in Mind release "Shadows", you need this - it's equally essential.

It's due on October 13th and can be pre-ordered here on vinyl. The digital version is available right now and can be found here. Oh, and Maston is currently working on new material in the Netherlands in Jacco Gardner's studio. Yay!

Some of you may recall us making a big deal about Children of Leir last year.  They have a new double a sided 7" due out October 27. "Black Annis ​/​ Children of Leir" promises to be pretty bad ass with the video for "Black Annis" (streamable below), showing that they haven't lost their knack for a propulsive Krautwork meets Velvets workout.

...The Dane Hills area of Leicester was said to be haunted by a hideous blue skinned, hag-like creature known as Black Annis, possibly a relict of some local pagan deity. Although partial to all human flesh she took particular delight in eating young children, whom she would flay alive. She would then hang their skins like some grisly trophy upon the walls of a cave known as 'Black Annis' Bower'. She is said to have created the cave with her bare hands, tearing through the rock with her iron claws..

The 7" can be pre-ordered here, and there's a new album due next year.

16 Sep 2014

Album Review: Allah-La's "Worship The Sun"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

A lot has changed in the short space just shy of two years since Allah-La's released their self titled debut. Having met and bonded while working in L.A's Amoeba Records, that debut was a welcome release from a bunch of guys who loved classic albums, and obviously enjoyed each other's company. Since then, their popularity has exploded, and as a result "Worship The Sun" faced a weight of expectation that often drags down even the most well intentioned sophomore effort.

Initial critical reaction tended to indicate that this was a fairly safe, 'more of the same' sort of effort, and while this is obviously the work of the same band, I'd like to expand upon that slightly back-handed description.

"Worship The Sun" is a much more mature effort than the debut, and by that I don't mean that it's more serious, or less fun. The jangly vintage surf-pop of the debut is still a dominant force, but the arrangements on "Worship The Sun" manage to integrate other, complimentary influences that hadn't been hinted at in the past. These influences add depth and a more well rounded element to the band's sound, which makes the debut sound more like a rough blueprint in comparison, and also hints at the possibilities for evolution in the band's future recordings.

The background hum and distorted guitars that usher in"De Vida Voz" are an early indication that things aren't quite going to run as expected here, even if the track does then settle into a more familiar harmonious jangle. Elsewhere "Yemeni Jade" brings in a lonesome steel guitar to tap into the spacious windswept vistas of early, instrumental Calexico in an extremely effective fashion, while "Better Than Mine" has a great Byrds / Burritos vibe going for it.

Variation, and evolution of sound aside though, the other secret to the success of "Worship The Sun" is simply that the songs are much stronger than those previously offered up by the band. "Ferus Gallery" and "No Werewolf" are the strongest surf instrumentals that the band have penned to this point, and songs like the anthemic garage rocker "Follow You Down" and "501-415" show that much has been learnt in the last few years, with the early promise of the debut honed and perfected here.

"Worship The Sun" is available on vinyl, and CD.

15 Sep 2014

Album Review: The Ilk "The New Dark Age"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

This writer recalls The Ilk from the olden days of MySpace (confused younger readers may want to ask an older sibling) where their strange, yet beautiful creations appeared both mysteriously and frequently, delighting fans such as myself. Indeed, having been making music in the shadows for a number of years, The Ilk remain almost a total enigma; are they a band, is one person behind all of this or are they a collective of musicians? The mystery is both enticing and only adds flavour to the oddness and charm of their music.

Their new opus "The New Dark Age" (appearing seemingly out of nowhere yet very much welcome) is a veritable feast of instrumental psychedelia and wyrd folk with a healthy seasoning of the best of seventies prog. It is also a thing of great beauty and wonder; it boggles the mind that music of this quality should be so relatively obscure and free to obtain (as it is on Bandcamp). Were it released in 1972 on say, Harvest Records, this album would now be spoken about in hallowed terms amongst fans and collectors.

Opener "On Ilkley Moor/ The New Dark Age" is a fourteen minute instrumental epic which, with its perfectly executed harpsichord, bells, finger picked acoustics and swathes of mellotron, brings to mind Mike Oldfield’s seminal "Hergest Ridge" and "Ommadawn". Instantly alive with what seems like several heartbreaking and ever so slightly sinister melodies at once the track shifts gear from rustic electronic splendour to fuzz guitar psyche-outs then into a brass interlude! Although there are many hints at prog with the shifting time signatures and reccurring motifs, this recalls more the dark whimsy of the Canterbury Scene, the offbeatness of Kevin Ayers, the sense of theme and drama of Mike Oldfield and the quaint English village elements of Caravan. It is at once breathtaking, otherworldly and deeply atmospheric. Indeed some of the parts would not be out of place soundtracking a seventies children's TV show such as "Children Of The Stones" or "The Owl Service"; there is a distinct sense of time and place to this album that is of the other, of a partially remembered memory of the past with its sepia colours and vintage sounds. Various analogue synths and slide guitar lead the song to a melancholy close, reminding this listener of "Ummagumma" era Floyd. As opening tracks go, it is ambitious yet hugely bewitching. The sheer creativity and ideas involved might be distracting were it not for the music being so timeless, effortlessly melodic and evocative.

"A Ghost Story for Summer" similarly sets out its stall with a carnivalesque organ waltz; a village fête or traveling fairground of sinister intention, filled with unsettling, wailing guitar and bells. The song’s truly haunting finale is a triumph; soaring church organ and recorder evoking a rural England now gone, the ghostly plainsong of something hidden and ancient. If the island band in "The Wicker Man" had invested in a couple of vintage synths rather than fiddle and guitar then the soundtrack to that film might have sounded like this. There is a hauntological element to The Ilk, a nostalgic sense to their music that will appeal to listeners of the Ghost Box label and bands such as Broadcast or The Advisory Circle. Indeed, "Powerplant", with its motorik, analogue heartbeat is an exhilarating race through Belbury Poly territory with foreboding bells and chimes combining with the sound of accelerating engines screaming below. It is quite simply one of the most exciting tracks I have heard this year. "Off Hogbens's Hill" opens with choir of mellotron angels, xylophone picking out a melancholy melody until some Persuaders-style harpsichord enters, adding a genuine air of unease and mystery to the track. Zither punctuates the cascading notes and melody; someone hire this band for the soundtrack of Ben Wheatley's next film, it would be a perfect fit. The song ends in a haze of sepia, vintage keyboards and John Barry intrigue.

Final track "Living by the Water"s bucolic bells, cymbal sweeps, off-kilter guitar blasts and demented merry-go-round comes over as a potential alternative theme song for macabre TV classic "Tales of the Unexpected". Genuinely disturbing in parts, its manic polka suggesting "Something Wicked This Way Comes" crossed with composer Lubos Fiser's finest moments. Indeed there is a sense of the gothic carnival of such Czech New Wave films as "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" that fits well with The Ilk's music; complex, unusual and strange yet also curiously beautiful and entrancing.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. It can be frustrating when you hear something so good that you fear it will not reach the ears of the many who will clearly adore it. Do not let this happen; The New Dark Age is here, embrace it with open arms.

Free Download here:

14 Sep 2014

Album Review: The Autumn Stone "Beautiful Freaks"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

This little gem has sneaked out over the last few weeks or so with little in the way of fanfare. While this may seem initially unjust, it soon becomes apparent that the tone of "Beautiful Freaks" is so intimate, that any form of grand statement would be against its nature.

Recorded on an old reel to reel in the Catskill Mountains of New York by James Cassidy with the assistance of his partner Syd Lane, "Beautiful Freaks"is a lovely little record that deals with lofty, universal themes in a hushed and intimate fashion, forming an easy and solid bond with the listener.

"Beautiful Freaks" doesn't have a lot in common with the glossy psychedelia of 2014. Instead it nestles comfortably at the feet of albums like "The Soft Bulletin", "Deserter's Songs" and "Good Morning Spider" - classics of a certain vintage that scale near unreachable heights, and Cassidy and Lane sound perfectly natural and unforced in this stellar company.

Cassidy's arrangements fuse lo-fi Americana with appealingly wobbly, vintage keys to tap into what appears to an outsider to be an almost mythical American Gothic. Draped in a peculiar melancholy, these songs are often startlingly direct examples of outsider music, with "In Charge of Stars" wrestling its way to the top of the pile, followed very closely by simple hypnotic charms of the zen-like "The River Song".

Pretty marvelous, and best experienced alone and uninterrupted. Consider yourself advised.

12 Sep 2014

Album Review: Harry Manfredini "Friday The 13th" Original Score

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Available unabridged for the first time ever on vinyl, this is another welcome addition to Waxwork Records series of horror soundtrack reissues.

Both the film itself (which tanked critically, but was a box office smash), and Harry Manfredini's score were important formulative pieces for the burgeoning Slasher genre, which was about to hit its commercial peak.

While both are not particularly original, they borrowed elements from previous films and played them up to ridiculous extremes, creating and refining the conventions of the eighties slasher film in the process.

While other horror films on a limited budget were following in the footsteps of John Carpenter in using synthesizer to save a few bucks and create an ominous drone, Manfredini's score for "Friday The 13th" is a much more traditional affair. Utilising a small orchestra, Manfredini only uses occasional touches of synthesizer to add an eerie theremin like tone. More often than not, the shrieking, staccato strings of Bernard Hermann's "Psycho" score are the obvious touchstone, with Manfredini introducing the infamous, echoing whisper vocal treatment which went on to be a hallmark of the series. Stripped of its visuals, it's still extremely disquieting.

I'm very pleased, and quite surprised to see this reissued now. It's orchestral setting doesn't really place it firmly within the framework of the currently in vogue horror-synth craze, but for listeners who are more interested in the mood created and sustained, rather than the textures used to create it, this is pretty essential.

Pressed on 180 gram, deep, murky green vinyl and housed in a heavyweight gatefold sleeve featuring full artwork by Jay Shaw.

Friday The 13th - 1980 Original Score [VINYL] is available here.

11 Sep 2014

Album Review: "Kollektion 01: SKY RECORDS, Compiled by TIM GANE"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Excellent German experimental / Krautrock label Bureau B are continuing to branch out with this new series of compilations in the "Kollektion" series.

The first release in the series sees former Stereolab geezer Tim Gane (who is currently doing awesome, experimental things with his new outfit Cavern of Anti-Matter) raiding the archives of seventies / eighties krautrock / kosmische label Sky Records for a definitive portrait of a label beloved by collectors, but largely unknown outside of these circles.

Sky Records was founded in 1975 when Günter Körber quit his job at Metronome where he and Bruno Wendel had spent four years developing and managing the legendary BRAIN label. The material Körber featured on the Sky label largely orbited around the music of Cluster & Roedelius, and this collection showcases this with a synth-heavy selection of tunes that emphasises the label's kosmische direction and largely bypasses the motorik rhythms currently in vogue with German underground music of this era.

There's plenty of variety too. It's occasionally challenging; Moebius & Beerbohm's proto jungle / industrial "Doppelschnitt" is lengthy and repetitive, even in an edited form here which is less than half its normal length, but there's no argument over how groundbreaking it must have been at the time. Elsewhere Roedelius contributes the gorgeous, crystalline "Glaubersalz", which has seventies nature documentary written all over it, and seems frankly unbeatable. But beaten it is, by Günter Schickert's lovely, pastoral "In der Zeit", an odd, acoustic field recording which quietly takes charge and acts as a focal point on an excellent, varied set here.

I'll definitely be investigating Sky Record's output further after hearing this, so mission accomplished I guess! 

Available on CD, and vinyl.

10 Sep 2014

Album Review: The Familiars "Martyred Hearts"

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

The Familiars are perhaps not so familiar to you at the present moment but this is due to change very soon with their exceptional and enchanting second album. Essentially a trio consisting of vocalist Joanna Swan, guitarist Tom Conway and violinist Vincent Maltby, the band drink deep from the well of fabled acid folk such as Pentangle, Mellow Candle and Stone Angel. However they also ably cast their own unique and individual spell, adding darker psychedelic colours and textures to create a brilliant and bewitching spook folk. Following their debut 'Cunningfolk' (a collection of acid folk covers and traditional songs) their new release 'Martyred Hearts' is an entirely original work, composed solely by the trio themselves. But what a work; hugely creative, emotive and descriptive, the album stands as a future classic of the genre.

Opener 'Bridge Of Birds' is an ornithological litany on the magic and lore of birds, its delicately picked acoustic guitar interwoven with twinkling xylophone and weeping violin. It’s a pagan place The Familiars are coming from, brimful with the folk traditions of the land and nature. This lends their music a timeless beauty that means that, had I suggested this was a recently rediscovered classic lost 70s psychedelic album, it would seem entirely believable. Influenced both by the writings of fantasy author Barry Hughart and by cautionary ballads such as 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme', the song narrates the different princedoms and personalities of each wild bird (and hence why their female counterparts should be wary!). 'The Shaming of Agnes Leman' is another cautionary tale perfectly framed by minimal percussion, fiddle, guitar and Swan's expressive and emotive vocals. Agnes Leman was a real character from The Familiars' hometown of Norwich and the story is so confidently and expertly told that I had to double check that this was indeed written by the band and not a genuine Child or ancient traditional ballad. Indeed it is somewhat of a revelation altogether that this is The Familiars first recording of original material as there is a level of skill and ease within the storytelling and playing that gives the impression of a band who have been playing together and honing their craft for years. This certainly bodes well for future Familiars material. '52 Hz Whale' displays another register in Swan's remarkable voice in the tense and ominous introduction before settling into a haze of melancholy beauty with the accompanying acoustic guitars sounding not unlike a chorus of harps. This is music with magic running through it, cast down from the moon. Suitably the tale itself is one of sadness, that of a whale whose song is at 52Hz, effectively meaning it cannot communicate with fellow whales and so is destined to live alone. 'Everso Cross in Newquay' switches pace to a Russian polka stomp, complete with chanted male backing vocals to describe a humorous and twisted tale of complaints and angry Newquay residents regarding a visit to the town in the 1960s by a group of Beatniks. Coming on like an Eastern Tiger Lilies, this is cabaret folk at its best, the blood of Brel beating at its dark heart.

'Sons of Clovis', based on the French legend, is an epic eight minute folk masterpiece. Sounding not unlike ‘Liege and Leif’ era Fairport or classic acid folk act Sourdeline with its tasteful and magisterial backing of hand drum and sweeping violin, this song is the album's centrepiece and standout track. Swan's perfectly phrased and descriptive vocals add genuine drama and emotion to the story of family betrayal and fight for the crown  whilst recorder and guitar add medieval tones and hues. You simply must hear this. 'The Raven and the Vole' is a witchy and gothic tale of based on the 1980s children TV series 'Moondial', adding a hauntological element to the album as well as being a fine exponent of dark, ghostly folk. Deeply melodic but also twisting through some twisted and unsettling nursery rhyme territory, this is yet another classic Familiars track.

The album closes with the title track, a duet between Swan and Conway (Conway's voice being eerily similar to Bert Jansch). It's a song filled with both warmth and sadness, retelling the story of the unfair dismissal of Annie Higdon, headmistress of Burston Village School near Diss, Norfolk in the early twentieth century. Her dismissal led to the longest trade union strike in recorded British history in support of her from pupils and residents alike. The song fully does her tale justice, a beautiful and dignified folk gem filled with strident violin and shimmering, haunting vocals.

The Familiars are undoubtedly set to become a much more well-known name in UK folk, psychedelic circles and amongst those who like their music a touch on the dark side. What they have cooked up in their cauldron here certainly contains magic, wonder and delight. Why not let The Familiars cast their spell; you will not be disappointed. Available now to purchase at the group's Bandcamp page with a physical CD edition planned for later in the year.

8 Sep 2014

Reviews: Matchess, Simones, The Lords of Thyme

Reviews by Nathan Ford

Matchess is the solo persona of Verma's Whitney Johnson. Originally released on cassette early last year, and now on vinyl from Trouble in Mind Records, "Seraphastra" sees Johnson put Verma's Krauty space rock to one side in favour of spooky Radiophonic drones which are as bewitching as they are terrifying.
Think White Noise's "An Electric Storm" or Ruth White's "Flowers of Evil" for a precedent, but Whitney takes things much further in both directions, accentuating the pop smarts hidden in the former, and adding layers of squalling guitars amidst the vintage synthesizer drones to create something with much more disquiet than the latter. You can stream the whole thing here, or grab the vinyl from here.

Those who have dug real deep down the rabbit hole may have come across Al Simones before. He self-released a number of  now extremely collectable albums in the nineties, and Fruits de Mer are giving him a second chance at finding an adoring public with an archive 7" release featuring "Majic Ship" and "Seize The Moment". The time is certainly far more ripe now than it would have been when these were originally recorded, with variations on his brand of fuzz drenched psychedelic jangle now flirting with the mainstream. He's the missing link in home recorded psychedelia between McKay and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and on the evidence of "Majic Ship" he may be better than either of them. Pre-order here - Fruits de Mers releases are pretty limited and sell out super quick.

The Lords of Thyme follow-up their extremely promising 7" debut on Sunstone with a four track CD which consolidates the strengths of the "Proud Maisre" single, and reveals a few new ones. Split evenly between startling interpretations of traditional material and intriguing originals, this self titled E.P is a nicely varied package. Stand out "The Cutty Wren" continues to refine the Pentangle style folk-jazz of "Proud Maisre", while "Fare Thee Well" classes up the joint with a T-Bone Burnett style production job, punctuated by some gorgeously swelling steel guitar. "English Rain" on the other hand is less genre-bound, and on a pretty grand scale, recalling the sprawling Albion wonder of Dexys' "Don't Stand Me Down".

Available soon from Sunstone Records - message them here to pre-order.

7 Sep 2014

Album Review: Goblin "Beyond The Darkness: 1977-2001"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Put together by the folks at Bella Casa as a sort of companion piece to their essential Goblin box set "The Awakening"(which included full versions of their essential seventies scores and albums), "Beyond The Darkness" has a slightly harder task on its hands.

The timeframe covered on this collection sees both a never-ending rotation of band personnel, and an inevitable evolution of the band's sound. Partly as a result of the wider scope of their soundtrack work of the time ("Beyond the Darkness" includes music from not only horror and thriller films, but also comedy, action and cop films), and partly as a response to changing technology and fashions, this is not music which is always easily identifiable as Goblin, and as such, the variety on display here doesn't always make for a cohesive listening experience.

Apart from the lack of overall cohesion caused by the lengthy timespan covered here, a few of the hard funk tracks steer a little too close to disco for my liking, but that's a small price to pay for a valuable introduction to the lesser known end of Goblin's back catalogue, cherry picking the best moments from a number of their harder to find scores.

The material from "La Via Della Droga" is an early highlight showing a tense and funky side of the band, which you'll hear a bit more of later on in the collection. Elsewhere the band's move from analogue to digital synthesizers is shown not to necessarily be the lamentable mistake that it's been made out to be, with the selections from "Phenomena", "Buio Omega" and "Contamination" (the full score of which is available on vinyl, and well worth seeking out) doing a particularly good job of updating the 'classic' Goblin sound.

An excellent springboard for those who wish to continue exploring the Goblin universe.

"Beyond The Darkness 1977-2001" is available on CD here.

6 Sep 2014

Album Review: Papernut Cambridge "There's No Underground"

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Former Death in Vegas guitarist Ian Button has always had his fingers in many musical pies, with Papernut Cambridge being perhaps the most rewarding of these.

"There's No Underground" is the second full length release under this moniker, completed with the help of a number of co-conspirators which he has picked up through various production jobs, with members of Picturebox, Hefner, Death In Vegas (natch) and the Mary Epworth band along for the ride here.

The press release makes mention of a mountain of influences; Bolan, The Byrds, Motown, Mr Bloe, Jacques Dutronc, Scott Walker, Arnold Corns era Bowie, Tony Orlando & Dawn, 10CC, The Beach Boys, The Flaming Lips, Edison Lighthouse, Van Der Graaf Generator, Ray Davies, Damon Albarn - the list goes on. Refreshingly enough, Button may well be influenced by them and many more besides, but he never sounds like he's trying to be them. He has a distinctive voice of his own, and wide reaching tastes which have naturally shaped the material on "There's No Underground" into a timeless amalgam of pop history which sounds both deeply reverent, and consistently fresh at the same time.

It helps too that the hooks are razor sharp. The likes of "Umbrella Man" and "When She Said What She Said" have achingly wistful choruses which will get lodged in your head on first listen. A fabulous contemporary pop album that follows in a grand English tradition. While Button acknowledges that he has many influences, I'd posit that he has few peers; Robyn Hitchcock and particularly Luke Haines come to mind, and I'd be willing to bet that he's endowed with a far sunnier disposition too. Marvelous.

Available digitally (with bonus tracks), or as a triple 7" box set if you like getting up to change sides every six minutes.