29 Feb 2016

New Planet Trampoline - Dark Rides and Grim Visions

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Those who've been lurking around the psychedelic fringes for ten plus years may remember this Cleveland, Ohio based band, responsible for the excellent 2004 release "The Curse of the New Planet Trampoline" (released on Elephant Stone Records no less). It was always intended for there to be a follow up, but for one reason or another the double length "Dark Rides and Grim Visions" was never completed and the band broke up. That wasn't the end of the story though. Eight years later the band reformed and set about restarting and completing this lengthy opus, offsetting these activities by performing "Piper at the Gates of Dawn" in its entirety at the 2014 Austin Psych Fest, supporting King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Jacco Gardner, and releasing a brand new EP showcasing a proggier, more explorative vibe. All notable achievements you'll agree, but "Dark Rides and Grim Visions" is undoubtedly the highest peak the band have scaled thus far.

This is some dark, spooky neo-psychedelia - not any of this indie with psychedelic effects business - but full blown psychedelia, an updating of the sound that embraces the adventurous, occasionally nightmarish spirit of the original movement, rather than borrowing its trappings to disguise tired old tropes as many others have done recently.

The age-old, Eastern melody doubled with vocal and organ trick is done perfectly on "Birds". Those Eastern scales are evident elsewhere too, and have every drop of exotic drama wrung from them - check out "Dark Ride" - a kind of Eastern psych "Dig Lazarus Dig" for this demonstrated at its very finest. There's plenty of variety on display here too - a necessity for an album with this much ambition and scope. The band prove as adept at channelling garage punk influenced fury as they do quieter, more calm moments. And while the raw power of tracks like "Pollution (Circles & Snakes)" and "Confidence Man" offer an undeniable visceral thrill, it's on the more reflective moments that New Planet Trampoline really take my breath away, with the suppressed tension-building of "Acts of Mania" a particularly impressive demonstration of quiet intensity, while "This is the Morning" is just one of the most lovely songs I've heard this year; irrepressibly jangly with hazy harmonised vocals all buoyed by a lovely Beatlesque bassline. Fab.

There's so much treasure to be found here that I could keep rattling on about it for days but you'd be better off investigating for yourself.

The vinyl LP from Stow House Records is a really lovely package too. Double, coloured vinyl in a thick glossy sleeve with intricate sleeve art that perfectly fits the dark majesty of the music it contains, with more than enough visual stimuli to keep the multitasking listener absorbed. Top stuff with my highest recommendation.

CD, digital and vinyl available here (UK/EU) or here (US).

28 Feb 2016

Coo Coo Birds - Dark White

Reviewed by John Knoernschild

Guitarist Jonny “Cat” Shaheri, drummer Ryan Zweng, bassist Gray Tolhurst, and guitarist Joshua Cook combine their powers as Coo Coo Birds, a psychedelic rock band based in San Francisco, California. The vision for the band started in The Golden Gate Park with Ryan Zweng and Jonny Cat jamming out. After some sort of spiritual revelation in Paris, Zweng contacted Jonny “Cat” Shaheri and the band was born. For this latest album, Johnny and Ryan invited along Gray Tolhurst and Joshua Cook to join in the psychedelic fun. "Dark White" delivers said fun in spades.

"Soulless World" kicks the album off with a driving force reminiscent of Wooden Shjips. The simple drums seem to fit the track perfectly, leaving out cymbal crashes for the soft chink of a tambourine. Far off vocals echo in the background, fading in and out of existence like slow moving waves. The backwards guitars at the end had me closing my eyes and picturing whatever the sound waves sent into my brain.  "Stay" starts off with a soft new-age folk feeling, then hits you in the face with a funky bass line and Spanish guitar riff. I feel like they're telling the story of a lost love here, or more so, a spouse, someone they wish they had made more of an effort to keep as part of their lives. It’s a song I’m sure anyone that’s lost a love can relate to. Bringing your spirits back up is the reverb laden, psychedelic flowing "Rose Windows", a beautiful song with twangy guitars and thumping bass, leading the way to soft vocals that warm the heart. "I Want You" is just damned amazing psychedelic rock. With the same feeling as "Just Dropped In" by the First Edition, it brings me back to days of eating elicit substances and sequestering myself in a dark room filled with trippy music. Surf rock swells throughout the song, while dual guitars bounce back and forth in your head. The surf sound continues in "Bang A Booker", picking up its punky cousin. Looks like all you have to do to get a new guitar is find a venue, get your grove on with the booker, take her back to your place and bam, you’ve got a new guitar! You can pay your rent now too! "Baba" continues the driving force from "Soulless World", while creating a much lighter sound. Crunchy bass paired with acoustic sounds pleases the ears. Crunchy beauty, yeah, that’s what we’ll call it. Soft in the center, hard on the outside, how many licks will it take to……oh wait, that’s something else. Hitting you in the face and bringing you back wanting more, "Love Is Sold" crosses the line into heavy psychedelic rock. The screaming lead guitar worms its wayinto your head, the bass thumping in your chest, bleeding out into the desert sun. I picture a vast landscape in Utah, dust weeds blowing over hot, red sand, riding out into the desert to find your lost love. Salome brings in slide guitar, with a sitar effect. I must say, it’s very unique and quite splendid. I can’t really explain the sound of this song, but it’s a must listen! "Elvira" is a short, Beatlesque song, a beautiful piece that I wish was longer. It’s one of those songs you play a few times before moving on. Coo Coo Birds shift their sound for the end of this wonderful album. "Caffeine and Ketamine" feels like a song strait out of the 60s. It immediately reminded me of Buffalo Springfield. The calming vibe of this song is just what you need to relax from a stressful day. Have yourself a good time……Caffeine and Ketamine. The trippy sitar sound comes back in "She Comes to Me in Visions" taking you on a psychedelic journey. The multiple vocal parts build and build, dripping through the speakers, coming alive in your head. Coo Coo Birds really ends the album well here. Simply close your eyes for this one and enjoy the ride.

"Dark White" is one of the best psychedelic rock albums to come across my desk in quite some time. While the sound from track to track tends to differ, it still retains the core sound of what I think Coo Coo Birds is trying to achieve. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this album to anyone. Head to their bandcamp page and get yourself a copy - it's a name your price / free download!

26 Feb 2016

Mystic Brew - Something More Than Dream

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

Hopefully I’m not the only one who had to look up the exact location of Russian city, Samara, whose well-over a million residents include psych pop act Mystic Brew. Today – as I write this review – the weather in Samara, at least according to the internet, is 21° C and sleeting, despite the predominantly pleasant and autumnal landscape photos that populate an image search.

Listening to Mystic Brew’s upbeat brand of psych stands in stark contrast to their home city’s current weather. Their sound escapes from a beachfront garage a few decades gone. Still, there’s a clear influence from their industrial city – and their more urban idols like the Velvet Underground, early Pink Floyd, the 13th Floor Elevators, and (the band has noted this influence elsewhere) Sun Ra Arkestra – along the way. This is a record full of oddities and psych weirdness while remaining entirely listener-friendly – and, beyond that, highly enjoyable for long-time fans of the revivalist genres.

Ambitiously, Mystic Brew has wrangled enough feel-good vibes into these seven tracks while pushing a bit against the grain, particularly with the twelve minute epic “Through the Haze,” which despite its length never drags. In fact, the song is a propulsive, pop gem, relying on the same warbling guitar tones and snappy rhythms for its entirety. Followed up by the significantly shorter “Belaya Bol’,” the two songs round out an impressive set of songs. “Belaya Bol’” plays with delightful lethargy, nearly delirious – sonically, the take is challenging the boundaries of speakers and toys with rise and fall within the instrumentation – as it concludes this entry in the band’s dazed pop catalogue.

Before Mystic Brew, members spent time in several cover bands, focusing their talents on the Who, Chocolate Watch Band and the like. Their love for the greats of the era is still readily apparent, but they’ve established themselves as well-tried songwriters throughout their discography. “Something More Than Dream” is an accomplishment in its mastery of vintage sounds, instrumentation, and musicianship; it moves far beyond homage, tapping the same current of their heroes and channeling a timeless vibe.

Along with several choice other similarly priced EPs and singles, “Something More Than Dream” is available at a “name your price” cost now or on vinyl from their Bandcamp page.

25 Feb 2016

Stream / Download new Shadowgraphs Double A-Side with Pink Floyd & Kinks Covers.

Charlotte, North Carolina based neo-psychedelic band Shadowgraphs have followed up their debut EP "Return to Zero" with a new double sided single "Midnight Tea".

Art by Delilah Jones
"Midnight Tea" features covers of Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play" and early Kinks rarity "This Strange Effect".

Shadowgraphs' Charles Glade explains: "Between “Return to Zero” and our follow-up LP (due out in the summer time) Bryan had just finished setting up his new 24 track tape machine. We knew that the quality was going to change, and we wanted to get used to using it before we jumped right into a big LP so that we understood what to watch out for, how to organize, how to calibrate each time, etc. Simultaneously Bryan had been wanting to do a cover for a while and thought that he would surprise his girlfriend, who was half way across the world at the time, with a song directed to her. This song was “This Strange Effect”. " Tackling this and the more challenging "See Emily Play" has opened doors for the band Glade explains: "This song was an awesome experience for everyone in the band. We were playing things on different instruments that we wouldn’t usually mess with, which has given us a lot of ideas for our new LP"

That new LP is expected for Summer, and will be a more ambitious affair than anything the band have attempted so far "There will definitely be more instrumentation. I know this time around we are going to include horns , vibraphones, real plate reverbs, and some more things…" teases Glade.

In the meantime Shadowgraphs will be playing Phuzzphest in April with Neon Indian, The Ohh Sees, Chairlift and Sunflower Bean, as well as a gallery art show in Charlotte NC tonight (26 Feb), and shows on March 3rd at Snug Harbor, Charlotte NC and March 11 in Winston Salem, NC. Checkout their Facebook page for more info.

"Midnight Tea" can be downloaded and streamed here:

Wyrdstone - Potemkin Village Fayre

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Wyrdstone is the psych folk alias of the hugely talented Clive Murrell whose début release under this name was back in 2009 on the Reverb Worship label (simultaneously issued as a part of a psychedelic folk triumvirate alongside Sproatly Smith and The Hare And The Moon's first outings). This début 'Cuffern' was a thing of wonder and beauty indeed, an accomplished and bewitching instrumental guitar opus that recalled such luminaries as Jansch, Martyn and Fahey. Aside from appearances on the 'Songs For The Black Meadow' compilation in 2014 and 'The Active Listener's First Acid Folk Sampler' in 2012, all has been quiet in the Wyrdstone world since (although alter ego 'Oortcloud' released a splendid kosmische synth album in 2010). Now however, we can enjoy 'Potemkin Village Fayre', Wyrdstone's second long player and, quite frankly, now also their second essential listen.

The album begins triumphantly with 'The Horsemen', a wail of Uilleann pipes and a resounding drum leading into a delicate but thrilling cascade of guitar fingerpicking and flanged notes. The track builds, layering and becoming yet more exciting as the rhythm gathers pace before ending with a flurry of whistles and harmonies. Fans of John Renbourn and the psych whirlwind of Six Organs Of Admittance will adore this. Next, 'Ferring Rife' is a more reflective but equally dynamic piece, Murrell's deft finger picking propelling the track along in its sepia tinged nostalgic beauty. 'Thelema' adds a degree of tension and urgency, darker bass notes hovering over the chiming, harpsichord sound of the guitar arpeggios. Curiously, this has the effect of reminding me of the music used in 70's apocalyptic dramas such as 'The Changes' and also of the rustic and slightly sinister soundtracks to children's shows of the era such as 'Trumpton' and 'Camberwick Green'; there is a vintage and yet timeless feel at play here which is both hugely atmospheric and pleasingly eerie. 'Meditation On Lost Gardens' starts softly with gentle acoustic reverie and the sound of of birds singing, a hazy slice of late summer that reminds us just how wonderfully varied the compositions Wyrdstone creates from his chosen instrument can be. 'Wapple Way's strident and reverbed processionary six string waltz is both graceful and hypnotic whilst 'The Ambient Sounds of Seaford' utilises field recordings of local residents alongside a carefully crafted multi tracked acoustic symphony to transport the listener into another world entirely. 'Spectral Bells' is a dark, echoed and twilit organ refrain that leads directly into the superb 'Pucelancyrcan' which, with its plaintive recorder and guitar melodies, seems to be a conduit into the land for something very ancient indeed. 'My North Star' is an album highlight, an immensely emotive and carefully wrought acoustic piece of glistening beauty that remains with the listener for a long after its final notes have resonated. For Wyrdstone does not need vocals or words to connect, affect or move those listening; it is all communicated through the music. And what music it is; this could very well be the soundtrack to all your future walks and rambles, all your nights spent gazing at the star filled sky and all your wanderings along the edgelands and coastlines of this isle. 'Beckett Window, Canterbury Cathedral' is a melancholy and majestic piece that recalls the nimble and expressive fingerwork of fellow guitarist James Blackshaw while album closer 'Collimating' adds a rare outing for Murrell's vocals to powerful and haunting effect, the swell of keyboards and thunderous drums finishing the album in spinetingling style.

This is an album of rare creativity, beauty, wonder and emotional impact. That Murrell achieves this almost entirely with his guitar work is a triumph and speaks greatly of his ability to conjure up feelings and imagery with his playing. It would be a crime for this release to go under the radar when there is so much to recommend it; get thee to Potemkin Village Fayre.

Available now at Wyrdstone's Bandcamp page. Do also seek out his first release 'Cuffern' which is equally superb.

24 Feb 2016

Faten Kanaan EP

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Here's a little something that I've been wanting to share with you for quite some time. I first spotted Brooklyn, NY based artist Faten Kanaan when she shared a series of live shows with Listening Center, an artist who never fails to surprise. Figuring that any friend of Listening Center's is a friend of mine I investigated Kanaan's latest EP and was immediately entranced.

Her Bandcamp page introduces her thus: "Using vintage synths, Faten Kanaan slowly builds songs inspired by cinematic forms: from sweeping landscapes & quiet love stories, to the patterned tension of 1970s horror film scores."

It's refreshing to hear a female voice in a genre almost exclusively populated by men since the loss of Trish Keenan and with Faten Kanaan we may have found a worthy successor. Like the best Broadcast works, the pieces found here are much more than the mood-pieces proffered by most Hauntologists. Kanaan understands that the medium is a suitable springboard for much more than moodsetting and Radiophonic nostalgia, although both of those boxes are ticked here too. But what really grabbed my attention here is that this operates successfully on another level - one not often touched upon within the genre. These are fully fleshed out, structured songs. Kanaan's voice (when featured) is as important to the progression of these songs as the vintage synths, adding an organic component, which coupled with the lack of drum machines creates a sense of dramatic tension, balancing out man and machine.

Fans of the Advisory Circle and late seventies / early eighties BBC Radiophonic Workshop will find much to love here, particularly on the first side which employs some absolutely gorgeous vintage synth / sequencer passages, with a little touch of the kosmische. There's also a sense of darkness amidst the wonder, with "Dream of Rain on a Coastal Town" adding cacophonous layers of treated voices and heavy church organ to create something of an occult hymn, before closer "Shadow" sees Kanaan's voice rise strong and defiant over slow washes of oppressive, menacing synthesizer.

I'm sure you'll be hearing much more from Faten Kanaan sooner rather than later. For now, you can pick this up as a limited cassette or digital download through the streaming link here:

23 Feb 2016

The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz

The new album from Montreal studio stars The Besnard Lakes is a pristine return, in that it is more of the same dazzling studio production you’ve experienced on previous outings. With Brian Wilson on one shoulder and bands like Grizzly Bear on the other, the music here is ambitious, gorgeous, and occasionally meanders off point. I mention Grizzly Bear, because they are also a band that thrives in the studio, employing many different instruments and textures in their sonic explorations. However, The Besnard Lakes are louder and less ephemeral, swimming in the tides of Jace Lasek’s swooning falsetto vocals and the many trippy studio techniques they employ.

In parts of the wonderful opening track, “The Bray Road Beast”, I am reminded of French band Air. “Golden Lion” and “The Plain Moon” both dip their toes into dream pop and progressive musical forms, and are also both laced with psychedelic goodness. Bassist/vocalist Olga Goreas adds sweet melodic textures to the mix, providing a counterpoint to Jace’s soaring vocal inflections. “Pressure of Our Plans” sounds alot like “The Bray Road Beast” at its onset, but then it veers down a spacier path laden with golden harmonies. “Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound” is distinguished by percolating synths pushed to the front of the mix, while “Necronomicon” offers up more straightforward dream pop.

Beneath the billowing layers of lushness, the band does have a number of lyrical messages, but they are tendered so gently and lightly that they could well float past a distracted listener. I also enjoy the song “Nightingale”, which is slower paced dream pop with a cinematic backdrop.

While it's true that there is nothing truly groundbreaking here, this is another solid and enjoyable effort from these talented and reliable Canadians.

Vinyl, CD and Digital all available here (UK/EU), or here (US).

22 Feb 2016

Firefay - The King Must Die

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

A very welcome and much anticipated release, Firefay’s latest ‘The King Must Die' is the follow up the superb and critically acclaimed ‘Anointed Queen’ (with folk legend Alison O’Donnell). The London based band present another deeply engaging and inventive take on psych folk that marries elements of Fairport style folk rock with elements of, in their own words 'urban baroque, world folk noir, jazz and chanson music'. From the outset this listener is not afraid to say that he fully expects this album to be amongst his favourite of the year, there is an incredible thirst for creativity here and an ability to create musical worlds that transport the listener to a different headspace altogether. This is not your standard, backwards looking folk rock album; this is the sound of folk going forwards.

Opener 'Winter Son' combines Morricone-esque, Western style guitars with an ever building and developing storm of a song that combines a chanted, folk inflected vocal (that reminds this listener of Art Bears in its delicious spikiness), swooping and sawing fiddles, bursts of psych fuzz guitar and an eastern musical touches that add an ethereal and sacred element. Believe me, this is breathtakingly good. The clamour of guitar riffs and ever more intense vocals ends the song on a superbly dramatic note before 'Ti Punch' enters, its French chanson providing a sudden and engaging change in style. Hugely atmospheric and with echoes of Françoise Hardy's melancholy and stately majesty, this simply serves to illustrate the ease and control the band have over their muse; that they can incorporate a number of different genres and elements but still be distinctly and uniquely Firefay. 'La Dame Au Chats' begins with a dreamlike shimmer of strings before Carole Bulewski's vocals enter and the song hastens on a bed of mariachi trumpet and 60's style beats. 'House On The Strand' takes us somewhere else entirely once again, an analogue buzz merging with dramatic piano flourishes and vintage synth bubbling. A hint of chanson hovers over the unfolding tale, a ghostly paean that unsettles as much as it delights. Fans of Broadcast, Stereolab and Belbury Poly will enjoy this as much as lovers of Pentangle and Sandy Denny.

'My Lady Carey's Domp' continues with the 60's John Barry Beat Girl vibe but adds a beautiful klezmer violin passage and some double bass and guitar work that Bert Jansch and Danny Thompson would be proud of. A jazz inflected interpretation of the murderous Child Ballad 'Long Lankin' follows, ominous strings and a gorgeous vocal combining to create an otherworldly telling of the tale that ends suitably with squalls and runs of wild violin. 'Un Jour Ou L'Autre' is a melancholy and tense perfect piece of French Yé-yé whilst the album’s title track is a medieval opus that wears its love of 'Leige And Leif' proudly on its sleeve and is an album highlight; a song of grandeur and majesty that sweeps and swirls through the ages. Next, '(Le Llamaban) Luna' is a heartbreaking lament accompanied by a loose beat and orchestration that reminds this listener of Françoise Hardy's classic 'La Question' album in it's sense of suave yet serious sorrow and loss. The album closes with 'The Djinn's Tale', distant synths echoing and growing closer until a wail of backwards electric guitar leads into a carefully finger picked acoustic motif. Tabla enters and the song begins, a tale of legend and mystery effectively conjured by its musical setting. This is a thrilling and satisfying end to what has been an incredibly diverse and masterful musical journey.

Trust me, you will not hear another album like this one this year or the next (or at least until Firefay return). It would be a sin for a recording as as accomplished and wildly creative as this to fall under the radar, do not let this happen. All hail the king, let Firefay take you into their own unique richly rewarding world.

21 Feb 2016

Telafonica - Tales Of Loss In The Stereo Field

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Sydney's Telafonica have a back history full of intriguing releases, and their latest full length (which I'm a little late picking up on) is a pretty great way to acquaint yourself with this talented quartet.

"Tales Of Loss In The Stereo Field" has been doing the rounds on the fringes for six months or so now and after a fairly immersive listening experience (I've been playing this A LOT), I can't help but wonder why this lot aren't more well known.

Here we have an adventurous indie pop album, haunted by the ghosts of sixties psychedelia and nineties experimental pop, populated by songs that alternate between gorgeous fragility and glitch-pop exuberance. "Spin Spin Spill Slip Slip Sing" has the ramshackle charm of early Phoenix Foundation, with Adrian's voice straining to reach the right notes in the sort of fashion that Neil Young uses to catch the listener offguard and wrench at the heartstrings, creating an uneasy, voyeuristic listening experience. First single, "What Remains" continues along these lines, with Ellie's crystal clear vocals offering an interesting counterpoint to Adrian's. They're both gorgeous tunes with the potential to overshadow the rest of what's on offer here, but while the remainder is less immediate, subsequent listens reveal that these two tunes are not the peaks that they initially seem to be, with the band's more upbeat material proving to be just as engaging after a couple of listens. The glitchy, slightly dissonant "Dance in Tune" hints at a barely controlled chaos that suggests the band as a force to be reckoned with live as well.

"Tales Of Loss In The Stereo Field" sounds very much like a product of the here and now, dismantling and reassembling its varied influences in fresh and surprising ways. I've not been this appreciative of a fresh approach since Stealing Sheep's debut back in 2012 "Home Song", particularly reminds me of SS's approach, a sinuous groover that gets under your skin and stuck in your head. Everything's balanced perfectly on "Tales Of Loss In The Stereo Field"; excellent songs, inventive production, voices that perfectly inhabit the lyrics they're delivering, and all given exactly the right emphasis for maximum impact.

Highly recommended, and the vinyl version comes with a lovely selection of zines - one for each song on the album. Check it out below. And while you're at it check out the first fruits of their 2016 project here.

18 Feb 2016

Circles - S/T

Reviewed by Mark Winkelmann

Circles is the debut release from a new imprint from Guerssen called Mental Experience which will focus on kraut, kosmiche, avante garde, post-punk and vintage electronica from the 60s to the 80s. Mental Experience plan to release the entire Pyramid catalogue of such kraut obscurities as Golem and Cozmic Corridors. These are groups so obscure that their appearance on CD in the nineties caused much head scratching as well as accusations that these were new recordings being passed off as genuinely vintage. However, for their debut Mental Experience are reissuing an even more obscure cannon, the work of a German group called Circles, a duo of multi instrumentalists called Dierk Leitert and Mike Bohrmann.

What I heard on playing this 1983 debut was a series of concise, harsh, mainly instrumental avante garde rock. I was put in mind of This Heat with a little Pere Ubu style vocals and harsh brittle guitar riffs reminiscent of Charisma-era Hawkwind but with the more traditional rock elements stripped away. Though that's almost certainly my own perspective as the sleeve notes instead draw comparison with Cluster and Heldon and the band themselves cite Throbbing Gristle and Fripp/Eno as major influences along with minimalists like Cage, Glass and LaMonte Young. The latter, more recherché influences are interesting as while they are not immediately obvious in the end product, they clearly show that Leitert and Bohrmann were bringing a more intellectual perspective to their sonic project than any rough hewn rock'n'roll looseness.

Sonically this is definitely a post-punk type LP rather than a more "traditional krautrock" release, bar one track which has Micheal Rother style backwards-seagull guitars and Virgin era Tangerine Dream synth arpeggios pulsing away. However, for post punk it is also very well played and produced, especially given that it was recorded on an eight track Tascam and released on a tiny private label. There is little wilful amateurishness or "will this do?" filler. Perhaps their isolation, both geographically and in industry terms, freed them to refine their raw edginess. This is the kind of music that makes little attempt to appeal to the casual listener. The focus is on sonics. While it's highly rhythmic there's not a lot happening that could be called songs, and even melodies are in short supply. Vocals are limited, sounding like they were sourced from radio broadcasts, embedded deep in the mix. The nearest Circles get to a song is on second track "Chant". In what is more an "anti-song" the title is repeated by an uptight yet demented voice reminiscent of Steve Thomas. In less talented hands such wilful harshness can quickly become repetitive and even tedious. However Circles have put a lot of care into ensuring that there's enough going on. By way of contrast the sleeve notes refer to an offshoot called D.O.C. (Das Organisierte Chaos) which was the duo playing live and improvising with a rhythm section, which Circles write off as loud and crap.

Circles released three LPs in all, the second of which Mental Experience are concurrently reissuing. The sleeve notes by Alan Freeman of the Audion fanzine and Ultima Thule shop fame are a nice touch too, and include an interview with the duo.

While I suspect this somewhat austere listen won't be a huge crossover success to casual listeners, keen students of this genre will welcome this release with open arms.

17 Feb 2016

Kula Shaker - K2.0

Reviewed by Chris Sherman (Sky Picnic)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Kula Shaker’s debut record "K" (and the 21st anniversary of the band’s formation), so it is only fitting that a new album has been released at this juncture, as well as after their second prolonged hiatus this century (the first from 2000-2005, the last from 2010-2015). I can’t lie when stating that I had no idea what to expect from the new album "K2.0"; I tend to try and manage expectations when a favorite artist releases anything new, let alone when reforming for a second time. Within the first 25 seconds with the sounds of the Indian instrumentation fading in, "K2.0" delivers exactly what you would want from the band. Whereas 2006’s "Strangefolk" found them trying to re-establish an identity following an extended hiatus (albeit with a few missteps), and 2010’s "Pilgrim’s Progress" was a welcome, understated departure into folkier sounds (and in reality, the perfect, logical pre-cursor to "K2.0"), here Kula Shaker sounds almost reborn, yet older and wiser.

Album opener and lead single “Infinite Sun” has been stuck in my head firmly for the last three days (“Everything she touches changes…”) and could easily fit in on either of their massive nineties LPs, complete with sitar solo and chanted vocals. From what I understand, that assessment is not far off, as Crispian Mills stated in a recent interview that it’s a song they’ve had for a while, but had yet to record. Solid stuff to kick things off and setup what is to come. From there, “Holy Flame” introduces an acoustic vibe, before a ripping chorus takes over. “Let Love B (With U)” is a song the Doors never wrote, with all the bounce and organs you would expect. “Here Comes My Demons” is about as prog rock as Kula Shaker can probably get, with three pretty distinct sections over a sprawling six-plus minute song.

I swear “Oh Mary” starts out with a sample of Paul McCartney talking (from "Magical Mystery Tour"?), and as I sit there pondering that, I miss out on a very Beatle-esque song, a simple and warm rocker. “High Noon” evokes scenes from a western, and could very well have been on "Pilgrim’s Progress". “Hari Bol” continues the Kula Shaker tradition of Hindi religious chants on their records, this one a meditative number that one only wishes lasted a few more minutes. The LP wraps up with what should be considered the highlight of the LP (and perhaps even in the latter portion of their catalog) in “Mountain Lifter”. The song climbs as it progress, with a fiery guitar solo and organ which crescendos (with some restraint) to the conclusion of the album.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the art, which is not only one of the more beautiful and striking covers you will see, but also fits nicely as a companion piece to "K". And just like that, everything comes full circle. It’s not as grandiose as 1999’s "Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts", and is obviously not full of the youth and energy of "K", but that’s already been done; this is Kula Shaker’s next chapter, and thus far, it’s a good read.

Available here (UK/EU), and here (US).

16 Feb 2016

Harpers Bizarre - The Complete Singles Collection 1965-1970

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Harpers Bizarre seem to have a hard time getting kudos from critics and collectors alike, often written off as a sort of pale imitation of their biggest competition in the sunshine pop stakes, the Association, but there's more substance on display here than you've been led to believe.

Their criminally under-rated (and hard to find) third and fourth albums are still the place to find the band at their best, but this excellent new collection of complete A & B sides from their prime years certainly paints an impressive picture that most likely doesn't correlate with the one that you've built up in your mind.

Things kick off with some surprisingly Beatlesque rockers from the time when the band were recording as the Tikis (and following pressure from another band of the same name, the Other Tikis). These sides offer a glimpse of an intriguing garage / beat alternative future which the band were surprisingly adept at.

These early singles were enough to get the band signed to Warner Bros. where Lenny Waronker took the band under his wing, producing and arranging four albums and numerous singles. The band struck it big straight away with Waronker's inventive arrangement of Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)", but his subsequent choices of material were hit and miss. Covers of Cole Porter and Glenn Miller tunes must have seemed hopelessly out of touch at the time, and no doubt have partially led to the band's middling reputation now. Fortunately these missteps make up only a fraction of their output featured on this collection, with material from up and coming songwriters like Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Joni Mitchell being more representative.

As Waronker began to embrace the psychedelic vibes of the times things get progressively more interesting and diverse. While pure sunshine pop fare like "Malibu U" and "Come to the Sunshine" are flawless examples of the form, highlights for me all come in the more adventurous second half. "Witchi Tai To" is an inventive vocal arrangement of a Jim Pepper tune (derived from a peyote song of the Native American Church which Pepper had learned from his grandfather) with a delicate, gossamer production. The theme song to the Peter Sellers film "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" is a great piece of Eastern tinged psychedelia. Then there's a radical rearrangement of "Knock on Wood" which is an absolute stunner, gentle and trippy in equal measure.

And there's a lot more to investigate among the 26 tracks found here. It's time for a reappraisal of Harpers Bizarre I reckon, and this makes a very fine 'exhibit A'.

Available here (UK/EU), and here (US).

15 Feb 2016

Astrodome - S/T

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

On their first full length, Porto, Portugal’s Astrodome brandish their instruments with a ferocity that makes them akin more to the forefathers of heavy psych, stoner rock and doom than the more-recent uptick in those genres. From beginning to end, their self-titled debut sounds well-worn and perfected by age. This is an incredible feat for a relatively new band with only a live demo to their name previously.

Only six songs – albeit long: three all new, three re-recordings from their earlier demo – “Astrodome” clocks in at about an hour, and each track makes fine use of the long form, containing movements and jams that don’t necessarily always add up to blissed out leads (though it’s just as good when they do). Closer, “Coronation,” includes an extensive drum solo, which is refreshing. Astrodome is doing a lot for the genres they inhabit, proving their worth, while also seeing beyond the limitations of their idols and peers. I haven’t heard Astrodome’s name around too much yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time.

The opening bass line of “High Spirits” is an artful feint; the track could, with the fast-paced riff, take any direction, but the one it chooses is less-traveled – a crisp, atmospheric progression against thundering drums. By the time the song changes pace – about five minutes into the eight minute song – it’s perhaps a little closer to what you expect from a track named “High Spirits.” It’s all searing guitar leads and gritty grooves. But the juxtaposition of the song’s halves is what sets Astrodome apart.

The first of three re-recorded songs from their earlier demo, “Into the Deepest Space” again matches atmosphere (warbling feedback and dense, reverbed chords) with heavy blues, living up to their “ϟ PRAISE IOMMI ϟ” website title. At nearly seventeen minutes, the track has plenty of room to breathe and explore the permutations of the progression, play a bit with the rhythm, and generally space out – well, way out. Considering Astrodome’s obvious love for fuzz, they manage to work some beautifully clean, almost pristine moments throughout the record. If for any reason you’re unsure about an instrumental album – though I don’t think many readers here will be – this one will make you a convert.

Stream all of “Astrodome” on their Bandcamp page – or get it in digital formats or on cassette here.

14 Feb 2016

Pulselovers - S/T

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Pulselovers, the project of Doncaster based musician Mat Handley (who also hosts the excellent 'You, The Night And The Music' radio show), is described by its creator as 'the culmination of 30 years of procrastination'. Perhaps so, but maybe also the conclusion of much careful construction, effective intuition and perfectly chosen collaboration, resulting in this superb and richly detailed début album that by turns astounds, affects and impresses.

Instrumental 'Ronco Dream' opens the album in a beautiful though ominous sci-fi haze of drone and keyboard mists, with a carefully picked guitar (by Graham Sutherland of Fallen Trees) shimmering throughout. It's a seriously atmospheric and effective introduction to the album ahead and recalls the majesty of This Mortal Coil and fellow 4AD artists in its swirling, otherworldly grandeur. This is followed by the percussive and motorik 'It's All In The Detail', electronic clicks and echoes driving the song ever forward accompanied by glacial keyboard washes, piano (by Mat's son Raven) and suitably anthemic vocals from Handley himself. A warning about environmental collapse, it has an underlying sense of dread whilst retaining a pulsating power and the feel of the epic. Next, 'Soundtrack 5' is a dark slice of electronica; vintage keyboard sounds growing and layering amongst reverberated percussion and analogue harmonies. With a hint of the icy, Ballardian scope of John Foxx's classic 'Metamatic' and Ken Freeman's theme to BBC's The Tripods' this track is perhaps best listened to on a long, night-time drive through the cityscape. Allan Murphy of fellow electronic experimentalists Midwich Youth Club adds further synthesis and the track itself is a triumph, a gliding frozen thing of beauty. 'Saturnalia', based on the ancient Roman tradition of bestowing slaves with wine, food and gifts for one day in order to keep them better in submission for the rest of the year (and with a hint that this practice may still be used by our political masters), is a spoken word piece adorned by a rich tapestry of synth strings, echoed guitar and hypnagogic sounds; a veritable electronic symphony that drifts and floats lysergically throughout to superb effect.

'Last Day Of Summer' begins with the sound of birdsong and a ship's horn before transcending into an electro-raga, the buzz of sitar and eastern melodies echoing across a vast landscape of sound. Written by Handley during a two month stay in India this stands as an album highlight amongst many fellow gems. 'Spirit', a twisted love song with vocals by Craig Manga (of MangaBros) lifts inspiration from early 80's synthpop and is all the more effective for it, a heartbreaking Depeche Mode style melody lifting the hairs on the listener's neck whilst provoking a tear or two. 'Autumn Arrives' is by turn a delicate and lovely track that swells, ebbs and flows gently throughout; a mood of quiet resignation and reflection permeates as the melody makes a permanent and welcome home in the listener's memory. Fans of the Ghost Box label, the afore mentioned 4AD roster and acts such as Concretism, Midwich Youth Club, The Heartwood Institute and Polypores will find much to adore here. 'Phantom Cinema' changes the pace dramatically, roaring into life on a pulsating keyboard bassline and an insistent cosmiche drumbeat. Hugely thrilling, this ably demonstrates the scope of Pulselovers powers; by one turn haunting and wistful by another driving and anthemic, this is an album of diverse and consistently fascinating musical jewels. 'Red Eden, White Nights' introduces the highly effective vocals of Blurred Girl from Promenade Cinema which gives the track a 60's beat sheen, whilst album closer 'Flatlands' is a tense, guitar and organ driven piece of carefully wrought atmosphere and mood, an electronic travelogue.

Pulselovers then is an assured, mature and sophisticated début that comes highly recommended for lovers of electronica, hauntology and highly atmospheric, emotionally charged music. This music is alive with possibilities and imagery, its pulse is beating strongly, rhythmically and determinedly here; seek this out.

Available now on a professionally duplicated CDr with individually hand silk screened artwork from Nick Taylor and as a download from Pulselovers Bandcamp site.

11 Feb 2016

The Kinks Live November 27-29, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA - Soundboard

It's hard to find good quality live material from the Kinks in their prime, but here's a great quality soundboard recording from a series of shows recorded at the fabled Fillmore West in November 1969 - some of their first US shows after a four year ban.
Village Green and Arthur had both been recently released, but had performed poorly in the US commercially. This didn't stop Ray and co. from mixing plenty of their newer, more rarely performed material amongst the hits for a fascinating cross section of sixties Kinks. Great stuff!

1. Till The End of the Day
2. Mindless Child of Motherhood
3. Last of the Steam Powered Trains
4. You're Looking Fine
5. Mr. Churchill Says
6. Big Sky
7. You Really Got Me
8. Love Me Till The Sun Shines
9. Brainwashed
10. Milk Cow Blues / See My Friends / Tired of Waiting For You / Brainwashed
11. Louie Louie
12. Victoria
13. A Well Respected Man / Death of A Clown / Dandy

Download 320 mp3 here.

In The Cities of Your Eyes

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Here's an unusually adventurous and rewarding compilation album. Assembled, I believe, by Rebecca Loftiss (The Gray Field Recordings) and Alan Trench (Temple Music), both based in Greece, this is a benefit album for refugees residing in camps in insular Greece, with all proceeds going to camps on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, and Leros.

Bandcamp provides a great platform for charity compilations, reducing production costs to next to nothing. As a result of this, more and more are cropping up recently. Often, these collections are hastily assembled, and all over the place stylistically, but "In The Cities of Your Eyes" is a strangely compelling document, which, despite its diversity, fits together marvelously.

Psychedelic luminaries like Stone Breath and the Legendary Pink Dots' Edward Ka-Spel rub shoulders with the cream of the current underground, mixing psychedelia with atmospheric ambient electronica, neo-folk and more in an ever shifting kaleidoscope of sound. With 23 tracks spread over almost two and a half hours, it's extremely generous, but never feels like too much. Instead, this lengthy playing time leaves plenty of space for some charming explorative work, giving the album a sense of unhurried grace.

Surprises and highlights are abundant here, with Dimitris Panas grabbing the ear early on with the moody "Necropolis (6th of December)", a Nick Cave style chamber piece imbued with a forlorn sense of melancholy, but for this listener the stretch that begins with The Hare & The Moon's "Black Shores" is where things become truly transcendent. "Black Shores"s gripping vocals quickly give way to Martyn Bates' "Fortune", a stunning piece of psychedelic folk which sounds like the mystical psychedelic hymn that Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills has spent twenty years trying to write. The aptly named Elektronik Meditation then expands the album's palette even further with the simmering tension of "Cave", a sinister eleven minute rumination full of widescreen cinematic splendour.

As you will have gathered from the tracks I've mentioned, there's plenty of variety here, and I have noticed that several other reviewers have found the album to be a little incohesive as a result. Maybe I'm approaching it from a different mindset, but I've noticed no such problem, finding that it's an expertly sequenced affair that ebbs and flows marvelously, with an unspoiled, consistent mood maintained throughout.

Highly recommended:

10 Feb 2016

Harsh Vibes - You Left Me Far Behind

Reviewed by Joseph Murphy

The discography of Philadelphia’s Harsh Vibes is relatively small considering the band formed in 2010, but the limited run releases we do have – two cassettes and a new EP, “You Left Me Far Behind” – showcase the band’s hypnotic meditations and frenetic jams, making each long-form song invaluably dense and deserving of repeated listens. The latest from Harsh Vibes – a two side-long song 12” – is no different. Like their predecessors, these songs are unrelenting and without filler – full, at that, of genre-mixing heaviness.

Though like-minded, “You Left Me Far Behind” has a slightly different feel than Harsh Vibes’ earlier cassette releases (2013’s “Dead Collective Soul” and 2012’s “Psychedelic Gin Blossoms), both of which were culled from hours of recorded practice sessions. This year’s EP provides another balanced pairing of songs that are equally as experimental as they are listener-ready, but the five-piece has also managed to expand their already diverse genre-mixing repertoire so that where “Reds Under the Bed” and “Jam Forever” from “Dead Collective Soul” parse wall-of-sound style shoegaze and Neu!-inspired grooves, side A’s “You Left Me Far Behind” explores a darker edge, melding darkwave and heavy psych. The track closes in a froth of atmospheric synth crescendos, searing leads and a trudging stoner-rock riff. What more could you ask for – other than a reverse side?

“I Will Follow You Down” stokes the same fire of dark psych, using just about every other genre for kindling. If not before, the second half of side B strives to capture the feel of the band’s live show, assembling and disassembling noisy riffs with ease. Here is proof of the living band, one that, like the ideal band should, willingly mutates, absorbs and adapts.

Available digitally or on vinyl from Harsh Vibes’ Bandcamp page.

Highly recommended.

9 Feb 2016

Doug Tuttle - It Calls On Me

Reviewed by Shaun Rogan

Ah the dawning of a new year brings a new offering from Doug Tuttle, co-founder of the late lamented Mmoss and now emerging solo artist in his own right. Following his excellent self-titled debut, Doug has teamed up once more with the ever-cool Trouble In Mind label to deliver ‘It Calls On Me’, a considerably less troubled transmission from our man in Massachusetts.

The overall mood of ‘It Calls On Me’, like most of Doug’s work is somewhat melancholy and he clearly remains a seeker of truths. The plaintive messages in the songs are littered with ‘if’, ‘could’, ‘try’, ‘find’, ‘time’ often wrapped in sublime multi-tracked harmony. There also remains a sense of distance between Doug and the listener when engaging with these finely crafted songs. This is reinforced by the record sleeve, which looks all the world like one of those 1970’s private press jobs that the late Patrick Lundborg so enthusiastically catalogued in the Acid Archives book. Doug is a man alone and apart, looking out into the distance like he is waiting for someone/something to arrive. It’s a hugely symbolic image when taken in the context of the music enclosed. Doug is giving you something to consider but not necessarily inviting you in. An interesting paradox that adds a layer of mystique to his work in my opinion that many others fail to capture.

Much of what has made Doug’s output such a joy thus far - his dreamy, slightly off-centre psych-folk-pop-rock and exceptionally tasteful deployment of electric guitar breaks - is intact here but has been stripped back further with the aim, I imagine, of creating as pure a mood piece as he can. To this end he has succeeded impeccably on this brief but hugely satisfying record. It is beautifully crafted with great attention to detail and some lovely referencing of the wider psychedelic and rock canon within its grooves. You guessed I love it already, right?

Opener “A Place For You” throws a curve ball with its faded in intro suggesting a space rock journey before being usurped by some lovely sunshine guitar and Doug’s now familiar and hugely chilled vocals floating over the top. It’s a strong start and quickly followed by the chiming pulsing title track, driven by backwards hi-hat, an endlessly downward chiming guitar riff and bass stabs - all ‘Pebbles-era’ psych flashing. A trip. “Make Good Time” is a beautiful hymn-like rapture that manages the wonderful feat of welding ‘Goin’Back’ by the Byrds to ‘A Message to Pretty’ by Love and is probably the single most beautiful moment on this remarkable record. And this is where much of the record dwells, in a hazy shade of winter, divining the spirit of the late 60s and early 70s and alchemically bringing it to a very ‘now’ sound. “These Times” is pretty and pastoral, a lovely acoustic driven piece with martial beat and those floaty double tracked vocals. “Painted Eye” is psychedelic and has an almost done/kosmiche vibe to it and reminds me very much of the second LP by Soundtrack of our Lives, "Extended Revelation" with its slow deliberate tempo, slide motifs and a killer’ in a meadow-lea’ stun fuzz guitar solo bursting into your ears. A real beauty.

“Falling to Believe” again has that wonderful signature slow sigh vibe that Doug has become a master craftsman at delivering with a truck load of soul and includes a sublimely clever referencing of David Gilmour’s solo from ‘Time’ in the guitar break which given the subject matter of the song is another indication of how much love and care has gone into this record. “Saturday-Sunday” is the longest track on the record weighing in at around 7 minutes, its warm keyboard refrain driving the tune and underpinning the soothing vocals sitting above imploring you to let your Saturday surround you like a blanket of goodwill and restorative power. It’s another winner, especially as it disintegrates into the ‘Sunday’ section - an extended motorik vamp of acoustic guitar, kosmiche drone and pulsing bass riff.

Matters are brought to a dense, jarring, fuzzy conclusion by the spectacularly brief “Where Will You Go” which breaks down and disappears into the ether almost as soon as it has arrived.

Ultimately, I think of ‘It Calls On Me’ as a giant paisley coloured parachute that glides you down through a shimmering winter sky, gently drifting to earth and offering assurance that whilst much of life remains unresolved your landings will be soft and ultimate destination will be the right one. Doug Tuttle has put down a marker for those issuing new works this year and everyone should take note. This one is a keeper.

Available here (US), and here (UK/EU).

8 Feb 2016

Paul Roland - House of Dark Shadows

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

Psych legend Paul Roland sees some of his finest early recordings reissued on this expertly compiled compilation from Austrian label Klanggallerie (also home to The Residents). Originally a German only release back in 1985 it collects tracks from Paul's first album along with an assortment of singles whilst also adding five essential and previously unreleased bonus tracks. Roland's music should need no introduction but for any uninitiated listeners, his is a back catalogue of psych riches that range from baroque, string filled tales of wonder, whimsy and terror to full on lysergic garage rock.

When I asked Paul about his thoughts regarding this release he stated 'To be honest I was initially reluctant to release it but as the label pointed out it was a ‘seminal’ album in my career and the one which had introduced me to a European audience back in 1986 plus it had not been released on CD before. (The version released by New Rose/Fan Club in 1991 included four re-mixes, not the original versions). But the clincher was the opportunity to include five previously unreleased songs from my overflowing archive which make it rather special I think'.

'House Of Dark Shadows' contains several of Paul's immediate classics such as the ominous, synth-accentuated anthem 'Blades Of Battenburg' and the chamber psych pop of 'Burnt Orchids'. The mastering is exemplary. These tracks (some roughly thirty years old) sound crystal clear and Roland’s richly textured and detailed mini-symphonies sound immediate, resonant and powerful. Roland’s skill as a teller of tales is evidenced on the masterful acoustic reverie of 'Madelaine', a twisted and eccentric yarn of insanity that is bolstered by backwards streams of guitar and swells of violin. 'Dr Strange' is a psych/ new wave hybrid that both the Psychedelic Furs or Robyn Hitchcock would have been equally proud to write, whilst 'The Puppet Master' creeps and crawls subtly into your psyche, an uncanny masterpiece that references both Amicus movies and TS Eliot. Next, 'Captain Blood' blends synth strings, strident guitar and acid tinged flute with impressive results, creating a brooding and thrilling blast of psychedelic rock whilst following track 'Death or Glory' also evidences Roland's anthemic side. 'Cairo' is a mysterious and disquietening paean to the east, flute swirling around tabla, harmonium and acoustic guitars while Roland’s distinctive vocals and lyrics conjure up an entire landscape in the listener’s mind.

'Green Glass Violins' is a string laden slice of perfect cosmic pop complete with glistening harpsichord; if the more baroque side of Roland appeals do seek out his chamber classic 'A Cabinet of Curiosities'; you will not be disappointed. 'Lon Chaney (1883-1930)', a folk shanty dedicated to the horror Meister and 'Ghost Ships', a hallucinatory piece of paisley coloured genius, end the album proper. However we are also gifted with the five unreleased bonus tracks which prove equally as essential. 'Midwych's demented acoustic and xylophone harmonies need to be heard to be believed whilst 'Shiloh' is a stroke of musical genius. What initially comes across as a jaunty acoustic and organ based folk number emerges as something altogether more darkly doomed indeed. 'Versailles' recalls Roland classics such as 'The Great Edwardian Air Raid' and 'Wyndham Hill' and one wonders how such gems have lain in the vaults for so long. The superb 'Count Magnus' stalks by means of plucked bass and the peal of bells, Hitchcockian strings eventually emerging to dramatic effect. The album closes with 'Summer of 1910', a sepia tinged melancholic treasure propelled by a military style snare and an increasing sense of dread of the global storms ahead.

All of Roland’s catalogue is highly recommended and it is gratifying to see some of his earlier work being presented in such a considerate and thoughtful manner. For fans this album will be essential on account of the unreleased material; for others it offers an excellent introduction to one of the UK's finest and most individual songwriters.

CD or digital available here:

3 Feb 2016

Magic Shoppe - Interstellar Car Crash

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Boston quintet Magic Shoppe have a fresh new EP of delectable, reverb-drenched treats on the street as of early February, and it's a great place to start for the newcomer, as well as an extremely satisfying new chapter for those who've been following them for a little while.

Frontman Josiah Webb recently admitted in an interview with The Artery that he hates the term 'psych', going on to clarify "As a genre, so many bands use that word. It’s overblown, it’s lost it’s meaning. It’s become the new ‘alternative.'" It's a sentiment that few could argue with, with bangwagon jumping bands, and grasping-at-straws publicity agents eager to grab themselves a spot on the psych-sphere, on the coat tails of Tame Impala and co., despite a large number of these bands being at the heart of it, guitar rock bands.

Despite Webb's frustration with the genre's shifting scope, there's little doubt that Magic Shoppe are a psychedelic rock band - not one of these newer generation 'psych' bands, but the real deal. The trimmings are all there, from the colourful light shows that accompany their live performances, to the walls of reverb on the guitars, to the sixties derived spelling of the band's name. But it's not just a case of ticking the required boxes. There's plenty of substance beyond the style.

"City Alight (Yeah)" (which you can check out the video for here) is a great primer for what to expect here, a psychedelic shuffle with a great dynamic, heaps of hooks and an appealling rhythm that seems to draw from a tribal, Native American palette. "Redhead" is a more propulsive affair, a BJM style rocker with a great pentatonic riff, and layers of hazy vocals that are used more for textural effect than as the focal point that you'd perhaps expect. The title track is a little more relaxed tempowise, upping the jangly guitars and allowing the various layers a little more space to breathe. There's some lovely Macca style bass work, and an undercurrent of drones and backwards guitar lurking just on the edge of perception giving it a sense of being a part of something much larger and cosmic.

Great stuff. The greedy bastard within me can't help but think that a whole lot more than the four tracks contained within would be nice, but the more appreciative side of my nature is quick to acknowledge that we're very lucky indeed to have anything of this quality finding its way independently to our ears.

Investigate here, on vinyl and digital:

2 Feb 2016

Boogarins – Manual

Reviewed by Todd Leiter-Weintraub (Hop On Pop)

I really liked Boogarins’ 2013 debut, "As Plantas Que Curam". Of course, it all started with the excellent songs, but there was more, too. I loved the home recording that made it all sound authentically psychedelic, like a relic from 1969. I liked the fact that it was the work of just two musicians—Dino Almeida and Benke Ferraz—and that they had to solve problems with their limited personnel and limited resources. It all added up to a very engaging, charming slab of psych that sounded like a personal gift to the listener.

But the album garnered some attention, and the band hit the road with a proper rhythm section. So, when Boogarins travelled to Spain to record "Manual" in a proper studio, they brought with them their two new, permanent members: bassist Raohael Vaz, and drummer Ynaiã Benthroldo. And while they all came home to rural Brazil to record overdubs and mix the album, the sound is anything but the homemade concoction of the debut.

"Manual" opens with a short, noodly intro, after which “Avalanche” explodes out of the speakers, soaked in reverb and dripping with the epic, expansive, modern psych influence of My Morning Jacket. In fact, there is far more MMJ on this album than there is Os Mutantes or early Caetano Veloso. The fidelity is crystalline and the sound is huge, even in the quieter moments. “Tempo” follows, with dreamy, proggy arrangements, guitars that both sparkle and snarl, and a dizzying groove. The improved recording quality shines a light on the interesting chord voicings that were slightly obscured by the fidelity on their debut, and also on the excellent, new rhythm section, who spin a variety of dizzying grooves, all while remaining watertight.

It is a far cry from the humble, homemade, pure Tropicalia of the debut.

That’s not to say that the new turn is a bad thing, nor has the band forgotten their pedigree. They still sing exclusively in Portuguese, and even the most-modern sounding tracks on here carry the scent of Tropicalia. “Mario de Andrade – Selvagem” has a bit of Os Mutantes in the melody line, in the cadence of the singing, and in the break and the rhythmic shifts. And “Falsa Folha de Rosto” could almost be an outtake from a late 60s Tropicalia classic.

But young bands are supposed to grow, and Boogarins has grown in every single way. The larger budget has allowed Almeidz and Ferraz to explore their songwriting, expand the arrangements, and create more-densely layered songs. And the addition of Castro and Vaz has given them even more freedom to build upon their increasingly complex compositions.

There is a lot here for the listener to explore, and the clarity of the recording lets us hear every bit of it. I cannot wait to find out what I am going to hear from them next. But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the hell out of what I have right now!

Available here (US), or here (UK/EU).

1 Feb 2016

David Colohan and Richard Moult - Branded By Constellations

Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)

The highly prolific David Colohan and Richard Moult, both mainstays of wyrd folk collective United Bible Studies as well as solo composers in their own right (and in the case of Colohan also of Raising Holy Sparks and Agitated Radio Pilot), are quickly becoming the foremost progenitors of modern experimental folk. Emerging during the dying embers of 2015, the extraordinary 'Branded by Constellations' quickly sold out at source (the fine Fluid Audio label) but is still available for download and directly from the artists themselves at Bandcamp. The haste in which this release was eagerly devoured speaks volumes for the sheer beauty and preternatural quality of this recording as well as, it is hoped, ever growing recognition for both composers. Following their previous collaborative album, the gorgeous 'Hexameron', both parties offer something different for this work; each takes a solo turn on an extended, piece of folk infused chamber music. In the words of the artists themselves the album as a whole 'celebrates selflessness in the face of an insurmountable tide' and there is something defiant within each song; something of standing alone against the unstoppable and uncaring elements.

David Colohan presents his piece first, the vast and melancholy 'As the Stars Change Places with the Falling Snow'. Recorded entirely by Colohan in Ballymahon, Ireland during the summer of 2015, this piece opens with a Celtic sounding wail from a resonating harmonium. Waves of warm analogue keyboard strings and organ swirl around this proclamation, blanketing it in a soft Popol Vuh/ Tangerine Dream haze. As this intro fades the wailing horn returns, the sound of wind slowly lapping around delicately placed piano notes. It is as much the space within and between the music that stands out and helps create the image of a seemingly endless stretch of deserted land under an infinite sky. Crystalline and mournful melodies drift into focus as murmured voices float by, the keyboard lines layering and intertwining to create a genuinely moving and evocative work which has something very old at heart; this feels like music that has been around for centuries, within the stone and earth beneath our feet and far out into the distant sky above. Colohan's work often evokes such a feeling; both earthy and spiritual, this is true folk music. Indeed, there is something sacred sounding about this work that reminds this listener of a similar sense felt when listening to the work of Richard Skelton; there is a reverence for nature in the melodies and sound that echoes the slow, steady, melancholic glacial slide of the clouds, the waves and the day turning to night.

Moult's piece 'A Moorland Shrine/The God of Disappearances', recorded on the Isles of Skye and Harris, enters with keening strings and woodwind with shards of beautiful sound reaching skyward. This is then joined by reverberating and cascading piano notes, merging to produce a slice of gorgeous chamber ambience. Within the beauty minor chords twist and contort, suggesting a level of tension and a sadness at this music’s heart. Call this modern classical, Avant-garde or indeed experimental folk; arguably this music belies description yet its emotional impact is certain. This piece is truly heartbreaking and transportive, to be listened to with your eyes closed. Next, the pace increases and the piano becomes more urgent, dramatic drones whirling past into the darkness. A baritone choir heralds something ominous, a coming storm or desolation as the sounds darken and the drone work becomes deeper, more sonorous and more like a glistening, slowed down choral work. The scale of the sound conjured here is massive and carnivorous; the strings and drones echo and reverberate as if through an infinite emptiness, becoming a dark orchestra of their own.

Both pieces on this release complement each other; Colohan's gentler, sadder, windswept elegy and Moult's turbulent and lovely storm clouds. Both are essential and unlike anything else you will ever hear. Each piece runs to almost twenty minutes and yet neither feel stretched, overdone or overlong; rather they build, unfold and uncover new layers of emotive and truly affecting music. Look up, seek out these constellations and gaze upon them.

Available at David Colohan's Bandcamp page with some physical copies potentially still available from the artists – send an e-mail to endofnavigation@gmail.com to register interest.