22 Mar 2018

Pansies - Cascade of Colors

Many records purport to be psychedelic. Many record label people and record dealers bandy the word psychedelic around like confetti, sprinkling records with fairydust that the sonic evidence contradicts. A lot of so-called psychedelic music is blues rock, hard rock, prog rock, straight folk, AOR, lounge or something else. Pansies are a psychedelic band channeling classic psychedelia and their debut LP, which sneaked out just as 2017 morphed into 2018, is a true and instant classic of the genre. It is totally utterly and wonderfully psychedelic. Pansies blow minds for a living.

Opener, 'Just Like Yesterday' snakes out of the speakers on waves of gently descending Hammond chords and Leslie-speaker treated vocals that frame much of the following songs. Think Procol Harum jamming out with July aboard a not-so Jolly Mary and you are beginning to dig their scene. It is drenched and spins with beautiful thoughtfulness on its own pulsing axis before taking flight and heading off into the clouds. 'Golden Day' follows in its wake and its insistent crashing organ/drum riff reminds me of Five Day Rain's classic 'Leave It At That'. This may be my favourite on the record - its an absolute gem of mind crushing proportions that has me hitting repeat over and over. 'Green Apple Eyes' follows and is stoned to the point of obliteration - its deliciously sloppy double tracked vocal opening drives me insane. I swear there is a trombone in the mix somewhere but the rational part of me says 'no'. Either way its a real swinging affair with a trademark 'Carnaby Street' girl-boy- beat-psych chord progression - all drainpipe jeans and paisley shirted strut. And a pair of beautiful white leather shoes.Fabulous.

"Crystal's Nightmare" is moody and shot through with shadows and reflections, that driving, splashing Hammond organ and spidery guitar stabs giving a phantasmagorical edge - a delicious downer that somehow manages to execute a great double take at the end. "Shoreline Of Your Mind" is a chamber psych trip that evokes the ghost of Felius Andromeda and J.K. & Co. in equal measure. Pansies know the wisdom of meditating in eternity and are happy to share it with you. "Hobbit's Song" is wistful and bounces along on a day-glo trampoline of organ and drums, a perfect pick me up. "Strange Dream" is a doozy - slowly unfurling it's charms in an seemingly endless fractal pattern with a neatly buried vocal line that places its velvet deep underground, navigating a meandering course through the gently wavering synapses of your mind.

Matters are brought to a suitably wasted resolution with the massive, lumbering asteroid of sound that is "Another Time" which seems to float by and through the listener. The smell of incense is heavy and entangled up in swirling organ before setting off with soft explosion into the indeterminate, star spangled distance. Somewhere at least 2,000 light years from home.

So there you have it, the record released at the death of 2017 that should be on every shortlist for best record of 2018. Pansies have captured it, distilled it and recorded it for your listening pleasure. They are a truly psychedelic band, they are a synaesthesia and they are my clowns who I love more than you know. You like psyche? You need this record - go to it.

Shaun C. Rogan

Cascade of Colors is available here:

19 Mar 2018

Dead Sea Apes - Recondite

If you’re reading this here, Dead Sea Apes is likely a household name to you by now. Since 2009, the Manchester instrumental three-piece has built an impressive back catalog of heavy psych that both defines and transcends the genre, absorbing along the way adjacent sounds: lush post-rock, ambient dub, Krautrock and experimental punk – see last year’s Sixth Side of the Pentagon or their collaboration with writer and artist Adam Stone for In the Year 2039.

These latest additions on Recondite – 11 tracks, 80 minutes – represent a broad swath of their permutations, including alternate takes and covers. Tying these all together is a dedication to experimentation and musicianship. Dead Sea Apes can do heavy, but they can equally soothe and meditate.

Recondite opens with an alternate take on “Tentacles (The Machine Rolls On),” once again featuring Adam Stone. Against some serious reverb and experimentation, “Tentacles” stretches out and eases through its dub-infused rhythm, while Stone narrates like a mad preacher, unrelenting until the song dismantles itself. “Coronal” follows and builds upon a drone to a crashing outro, remodeling post-rock into psych madness. Standout track, “Lupine Wavelength,” runs the gamut of guitar styles and tones. It lacks nothing. For guitarists – and all musicians really – it’s a must-hear.

Overall, Recondite works as a summation of Dead Sea Apes’ work thus far, sprawling and heavy, but it might also be a fine introduction for new listeners who might choose a branch to follow back through their catalog. In addition, covers appear throughout, grounding the rest in a tradition: an Organisation/Kraftwerk deep cut, “Rückstoß Gondoliere;” Harmonia’s “Vamos Compañeros;“ and one of Skip Spence’s last recorded songs, “Land of the Sun.”

Joseph Murphy

13 Mar 2018

Mt. Mountain - Dust / Stephen Bailey - Silo

Here's a couple of things I've just caught up with over the last few weeks which came out during our extended hiatus but are very worthy of mention.

First is Perth quintet Mt. Mountain's album Dust. (which is almost a year old now).

If someone had described Dust to me before I heard it - the press release describes it as "capturing the atmosphere of the red/orange landscapes that consume the Australian outback" - I'd likely have thought something along the lines of "That sounds like my sort of thing", but I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that there would be an inner voice whispering "This sort of thing has been done to death, this sounds pretty unnecessary".

Repeat plays however have revealed Dust to be not only necessary, but essential listening. Sure Dylan Carlson's Earth have been doing this sort of thing for ten, fifteen years now - the cinematic, widescreen, windswept vista, but Mt. Mountain's take has an immersive, meditational quality that I've never experienced while listening to Earth.

Over four long tracks Mt. Mountain create and sustain a desolate atmosphere via simple structures that those who aren't quite on the right wavelength may find repetitive, but those who are will find intoxicatingly hypnotic.

The seventeen minute opener threatens to derail the listener's inner peace by bursting into a furious cacophany of noise midway through, appropriately demonstrating the outback's unforgiving qualities, but the remaining three tracks create an unspoiled mood that will slow the most feverish heartrate. From "Floating Eyes" with its appeallingly trippy Doors vibe (think "Riders on the Storm"), to the sustained mellotron drone of "Kokoti", this really ticks all of the right boxes for me.

Vinyl and digital available through the streaming link below.

Given how much I'd enjoyed Dust, I was naturally interested to see that Mt. Mountain's singer/guitarist/organist/whistler Stephen Bailey had followed it up with a solo debut at the end of June.

Silo shows Bailey (who plays everything on here) to be a very diverse character indeed. There's little here to connect this to Dust in anyway. Silo is a much more song orientated affair for a start, but it's also an intriguingly fractured record with some tracks appearing to be very carefully structured while others sound like fragmentary sketches, awash with the excitement of the new.

It's a beautiful sounding record too which reminds me a lot of Richard Swift's production on Damian Jurado's recent albums, although the folky nature of those albums is not apparent in Bailey's appealing psychedelic pop confections.

Opener "Demure" is probably the stand out track here and would be a hit in a world where guitar based music still charted. It's got a pleasing Real Estate vibe to it, but this Real Estate grew up with the output of the Brain label rather than Flying Nun. "Sub Zero" on the otherhand showcases a falsetto that Jim James would be proud of over a vintage organ and flute backdrop with lashings of flower power.

More by good luck than good management this is a judicious time to draw your attention to "Silo". While the cassette edition is long sold out, a vinyl edition of only 80 copies is still available tthrough the widget below. Digital too.

Nathan Ford 

6 Mar 2018

Prana Crafter - Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice

Prana Crafter, the one man psych project of Washington Woods resident William Sol, has provided some of the most visceral and exciting guitar based releases of recent times. 2015’s haunting yet ferocious ‘Rupture of Planes’ and 2017’s atmospheric and detailed ‘MindStreamBlessing’are perfect introductions to Sol’s work and ‘Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice’, just released on the splendid Beyond Beyond is Beyond label, is more than equal, an able and essential counterpart.

The album opens with ‘Bodhi Cheetah's Boogie Blues' amidst an explosive churning of molten guitar, sparks and debris scattering and dissipating, until an unholy scorched earth blues tears along the horizon that is both distorted and thrillingly exciting. Like fellow travellers Six Organs of Admittance there is an (un)easy alliance and movement between effective moments of calm, genuine beauty and melting, corrosive guitar work. Both add tension and power to the other in turn. Midway through this nine minute opus a saloon style piano emerges and picks out a lonesome and haunted melody, framed by a backdrop and symphony of feedback and waves of electrified hum. Gradually, the twisted blues refrain returns and fades, leaving a distinct impression of something primordial stalking the land, a roar from the woods themselves. This is music from the mud, the roots and the gut. 'Blooming of the Third Ear' follows, beginning at a canter with percussion framing the reoccurring harmony and swells of analogue synth, not unlike the theme from some folk horror western. Footsteps and distant voices merge into a Floydian cosmiche mass of keyboards and chimes before fading into a delicate and ghostly guitar motif that truly lifts the hair on the back of the neck. William Sol has an unnerving skill of making his music sound both intimate and universal at the same time and this track speaks of the vast emptiness of the night sky above the Washington Woods as much as it sits alongside you by the campfire.

'Holy Temple Of Flow’s melancholic keyboards and trebly guitar notes remind this listener of the atmospheric and spooked apocalypses of Godspeed You Black Emperor, the track morphing mid song into a furious, electrified solo that seems to summon the end times in all its wrath and anger. Here again is the dichotomy in Prana Crafter's carefully wrought songs; the quiet and the storm. 'Crystal Sky Wooden Cloud' is a case in point, its urgent acoustic rhythms and intense string bending propels the track into terrain inhabited by the likes of Jack Rose or Sun City Girls, before the clouds part and a quiet, reflective harmony breaks through. Next, 'Pandimensional Drifter' echoes into being, unhurried and deceptively languid until a truly epic guitar and organ melody arise from the darkness of the forest. Sounding not unlike an unhinged and inspired Ennio Morricone, in an album full of highlights this perhaps stands as a pinnacle moment. There is genuine dread, tension and release distilled here as the guitar howls against the encroaching night and the darkening of the woods.

'Old Growth Fortress' pits urgent piano against dynamic, multi layered guitar runs that you can feel in the pit of your stomach; indeed, there is real emotional force to these songs, something not always associated with instrumental or guitar based music. This distorted crescendo builds to almost Sabbath-ian proportions until a mournful drumbeat brings the piano back for a bare, funereal conclusion. Both affecting and exciting, you need to hear and experience this; the powerful ebb and flow of Prana Crafter. Finally, closer 'Vajra Mountain' is a brooding acoustic mantra, cascading waterfall like into calmer pools before descending and swirling, bubbling once more. As a conclusion it is as breathtaking as any of its predecessors and serves to remind the listener of just how special this album is.

Prana Crafter have once again sent a missive from their forests that both resonates with and transports the listener to their world and their surrounds. Whilst close and intimate at times, there is something larger, grander and more cosmic suggested in the nuances and scale of their output and vision that marks Prana out from other travellers on the same roads. William Sol creates a spell that seems both ancient and eternal, something human and something endless. Join him; you will not be disappointed.

Grey Malkin

Available now as a limited cassette and download now: