Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Diaphanoids - LSME

booklet PAG 1 e 4

Italian experimentalists Andrea Bellentani and Simon Maccari have already released one album as The Diaphanoids [I’m sure that every time I type that in this review I’m going to go back and check I’ve spelt it correctly – embarrassment may well follow I fear], Astral Weekends, released in 2009 on Bear Funk Records, but that’s not a record that I’m familiar with, so I start from scratch with their second offering, LSME which will appear on Tirk Records at the end of April.

Now, yesterday I was writing about Kev Ellis and his Space Cadet album, and talking about how it seemed to be about a musician making space-rock fun by using all the standard components of the genre to just have a good time with making music. The Diaphanoids is a very different prospect, a quite serious suite of sounds, cavernous and weird, sounding big and deep and unearthly in a Radiophonic Workshop sort of way but with a Krautrock sense underneath it, a uncomfortable and challenging listen, a sonic assault or aural exploration. So we get things such as ‘55th Dimension Nervous Breakdown’ which is a noisefest where the rhythms are the key, starting out a little akin to the entry into Space Ritual, or its linking points, invoking hollowness, apparition, ethereal, unknowable and moving into a discordant and  disjointed psychedelia… haunting and unsettling. It’s a mind journey, really. When it starts with more conventional, relaxing, soundscapes it still develops or devolves into that mesh of experimental generation of sounds – as in ‘You Can’t Shine If You Don’t Burn’, a quite absorbing and cleansing piece in many ways.

‘How Can I Distinguish Sky From Earth If They Keep On Changing Their Place’ [Are they challenging Sendelica for longest song titles I wonder?], has a Turner-esque feel to it in early places, and ‘All The Constellations Aren’t Worth A Pinpoint Of Liquid Light In Your Eyes’ is a slow, sonorous, mood piece that’s like diving into inky blackness and feeling the weightless of eternity wrapping itself around you, folding you into itself and taking you deeper and deeper, the atmospheric highlight of this suite. The title track works the tried and trusted route of playing around a simple theme, just as ‘Our Own Private Elsewhere’ does, and again they’re playing with sounds and noises across that starting layer.

The play-out track, ‘These Nights Wear Three Heads, Five Arms, And Ten Legs’ is another cacophony of swirling experimentalism, cavernous again in the way those linking sections in Space Ritual are – a collision of space-rock, Kosmische and Kraut. It’s a fascinating and  tense collection of instrumentals, industrial and ethereal by turn, demanding of its listener but intriguingly good work.

‘Like’ The Diaphanoids on Facebook 

Tirk Recordings Website

MAYFLOWER MADAME - Into The Haze (Official video)

Directed by Kenneth Karlstad (Deathcrush, Death By Unga Bunga), and partly inspired by German Expressionist horror movies from the 1920s.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Kev Ellis – Space Cadet


If I could say one thing about Kev Ellis’s solo album, Space Cadet, to sum it up and tell you what it’s all about, then I’d tell you it’s fun. I’d also tell you that if you want it on CD then get along and order one pronto because it’s been pressed as 100 signed and numbered copies and after that it’s in download format only, but mainly I’d tell you that it’s fun. And perhaps that’s what I sometimes forget as a blogger or a commentator of space-rock, because I can get all serious about it, invoking the myths and legend, the references, allusions and inspirations and lose sight of the basic fact that we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves with music that is ‘out there’, that’s wild and wacky as well as serious and moving, so it’s good that records like this come along and remind me that at the end of the day, well, let’s just enjoy it, really.

This record is just Kev, aside from some guitar on the opening track by Grunty McNaughton, but readers will of course know him from multiple musical alliances, notably Dr Brown, for whom Huw Lloyd-Langton filled-in with back in the day, or with the much-missed Judge Trev as Kev & Trev, or as part of Bubbledubble, or for his guest appearance on the Sprits Burning Alien Injection album, or for one of many other instances. But out on his own for this one, the sense I get of this record is of someone having a ball making his kind of space-rock, where it rocks along very nicely, stopping to become reflective and thoughtful now and then but never losing sight of wanting to rock-on and just celebrate making music.

Here’s a case in point: ‘Sunrise Pagan Bop’, a glam rock styling with a bloody great smile on its face and a sing-along sense that does the business and should have been a Top 10 single in, oh, 1973 probably – absolutely bloody fabulous. But what he’s really doing across this record, with all of us Space Cadets in mind, no doubt, is just throwing all the elements of space-rock into a great cauldron, mixing it up all and seeing what comes out, like he’s dashing around making sure he’s got it all in there: Wobbly windy noises threading through a song? Check! Elongated chanting and droning with Krautrock minimalism? Check! Tongue-in-cheek punk-surf-spoof? Check! Gentle spacey ruminations? Check! It’s all here!

So I really liked the short and snappy and full of joy ‘Super Cosmic Space Age Baby’, but I also loved the does exactly what it says in the title ‘Time Reflection’, and I celebrated along with the festivalized ‘Celebrate The Day’ even while I heard its sense of outrage as well as its sense of freeness, and I enjoyed the New Age sparseness in ‘Resting Heart’… and in the end I just simply enjoyed this record, which sounds under-produced and basic, and which is properly good because of that in a way, and which just has a love of music, and of our musical genre, rippling through it.

Kev Ellis @ Bandcamp (Buy on CD here)

‘Like’ Kev Ellis on Facebook

Monday, 17 March 2014

Zendad – Evolving Entities


I’ve often opened blog posts with regrets about being behind on review commitments or not getting to stuff as quickly as I’d really like to, but really there’s a bit more to it than that because the volume of emails I get from people hoping to get a review or a mention is growing regularly and I’m additionally conscious that I don’t cover even half of what I get sent links to (I had three different submissions today alone) and I really regret that. You’d think that the Internet offers fantastic opportunities for musicians to get their music out to their target audiences – and it does – but the sheer volumes of creative outpourings create a whole new problem of being heard amongst all the great material being produced. I’m not prolific on this blog, I know that weeks can go by when, through print demands or nine-to-five stuff, it goes untended , then I’ll try and have a bit of a burst and catch up… I wish I could produce the quantity of high quality and knowledgeable reviews that friends such as Scott Heller are blogging (check out Scott’s always excellent blog on the links list) but I don’t always get the time.

Stephen Kavanagh’s ‘Zendad’ album I’ve had the link to since January, listened through it at the time and really liked it and completely failed to deliver the promised write-up that I committed to. Which is wrong of me, because blog readers here will really like this record, and because Stephen is another of those musicians producing really good stuff and struggling to get that music heard among the myriad of other releases – and this blog should be about trying to get a few people along to have a listen and support the music.

Where does it fit within our genre? Well, it’s a inventive, imaginative Hawkwind derivation in a lot of places – that’s to say it wears its influences on its sleeve and its predominant influence is the band that really causes us all to be here enthusing about space-rock in the first place. And in terms of being Hawkwind influenced it has something of an 80s Hawkwind vibe, but not in that Heavy Metal or Grungy way, more that it has the atmosphere or aura of 80s Hawkwind in its thoughtful, trippy keyboards (go and listen to ‘After The Fall’ in this respect and you’ll hear what I mean) and it’s as though it’s a Hawkwind as Hawkwind might have been if dominated by Harvey Bainbridge and Huw Lloyd-Langton… and then it’s also Hawkwind as a ‘lost’ Dave Brock solo album from the time of Earthed To The Ground. It’s a soft rock space-rock, floating in dreams, easy going and peaceful and instantly likeable.

What’s it all about? It says it’s “a concept album that explores the themes of conspiracy theories, reptilian bloodlines, alien life forms, UFOs, the exploration of outer and inner space, the fall of man and the coming of the new age.” Sitting listening to it on my computer the words just drift across its surfaces and that’s possibly what’s intended. There’s comfortingly repetitive lyrics on the title track that are breathed over some light and airy music, again keyboard-led but leading into some nice guitar. “Guardians from a higher place take us to another place.” The words aren’t the important bit, it’s all about the delightful sounds that they float upon.

‘Elohim’ crosses over into Tangerine Dream territory, slipstreams slightly away from space-rock to a degree but still has a languid spaciousness that intoxicates. When it detours from that modus operandi it’s still wearing its soft rock credentials - ‘Beyond The Sun’ rocks up and rocks out but it only seems heavy in contrast to what’s come before, its riffs and Eastern lines are robust but hardly muscular but its a nice and steady beat and in any case, ‘Starlight’ takes us back around again to what’s best about this album, the gentle and elegant space keyboard sound that absorbs the listener in a diverting and pleasing manner.


Zendad at Bandcamp

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Fruits de Mer Records – March 2014

I’m always banging on about how good it is to receive one of Fruit De Mer’s excellent packages of promotional material; well, this time I’m even more pleased because the bundle of promo CDs in support of their vinyl releases for this month contains amongst its excellence a Double 7” by Crystal Jacqueline and The Honey Pot which gives me a opportunity first of all to deviate from the review of FdM’s offerings and make a plug for Crystal Jacqueline’s excellent Sun Arise album [Mega Dodo Records] which I enthused about in R2 a couple of issues ago:

“Busy and involving, invoking halcyon 60s psychedelic haze and daze, and really quite smashing, is this debut album from The Honey Pot’s Crystal Jacqueline, produced, played-on and partly written by fellow Honey Pot member Icarus Peel. It’s a record that creeps up on you with all its beguiling intricacies and doesn’t easily get out of your player or off your mind.

It has a darkness to it that’s quite appealing and cuts through the potential saccharine of its loaded psychedelia references that range from a brooding cover of ‘Play With Fire’ with its allusions to St John’s Wood and heiresses that make it seem almost an historical document, to what feels almost like an obligatory Alice In Wonderland piece and onto that great slice of 60s acid-trip visions, err, Mary Poppins. It has to be said, though, that the version of ‘Fly A Kite’ included here is just breathlessly wistful, a proper and heartfelt reading.

So in a way it has a great nostalgic feel to it, safely tucked away in a cultural hinterland; but it’s that mix of sweetness that’s not cloying and darker depths, note in this context also Jacqueline’s vocals on a cut of The Troggs’ ‘Cousin Jane’, that makes it so palatable. As Alice might have said, it’s curiouser and curiouser.”

So getting that mention out of the way first (if you think it sounds right up your street from that review, go and get it – it will be!), FdM’s release is a mixture of Crystal Jacqueline tracks and those from Icarus Peel’s band The Honey Pot, which features Crystal in any case. Now, I don’t often watch ‘Reality’ shows, Strictly… aside, though I will confess to sifting through the audition rounds of The Voice, but when I do the it seems to me that the judges are always talking about “attack”… that rendition was full of attack, you approached the song with attack, that sort of thing. Well, among these covers, I’d particularly note that The Honey Pot approach their version of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ with a lot of attack. Full of attack, it is. I mean, it’s ripe for attack anyway, but this is a really splendid run through, better than The Damned’s version circa The Black Album, and that was pretty good itself. Meanwhile, Crystal Jacqueline does a terrific take on Pink Floyd’s ‘Remember A Day’ and among the other songs, she also does more than justice to ‘I Had Too Much To Dream’ (didn’t The Damned have a stab at that as well?), while The Honey Pot give a delicious poppy lilt to Mighty Baby’s ‘Egyptian Tomb’. This release is seven tracks, spread across two 7” singles in a gatefold sleeve and an eight page booklet. I know FdM have released a Crystal Jacqueline single previously; I’d overlooked that one but since the Sun Arise album, I’ve determined not to overlook any more.

Dragging myself away from that one, Schizo Fun Addict have a cult movie 7” featuring as the A-side a track from the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria, which I’m talking about with authority of course… but have never heard of… and a B-side, ‘In The Long Run’ taken from Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, which of course I’ve heard of [behave] and which actually captures 70s tackiness in all its technicolour glory… I smiled all the way through and really liked it! On the other hand, Bristol-based Schnauser’s release is a bit of a Curate’s Egg for me, headlined as being ‘As Long As He Stays Perfectly Still’, the A-side is actually covers Yes’s ‘Astral Traveller’ and at this notion I have glazed eyes and a vacant expression for I have never understood Yes and never found their appeal, though the ‘headline’ track, covering a number from Soft Machine Volume Two I found more interesting, even if,again, Soft Machine have never really been my glass of Coke. I’ll pass along from this one as it didn’t really float my boat.,

Moving right along then, Scandinavian duo Us And Them have a three-track single, including one original track. I’ve never heard Sandy Denny’s ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ before, and the promotion for this single identifies it as a lesser-known entry in the Denny canon, but the Us And Them take on it is crystalline, fragile, affecting and moving, the thinnest china, so delicate that it might shatter and be lost from a single glance but lovely and precious to behold. Alongside it is a cover of an interpretation, as it were, a take on Donovan’s appropriation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, followed by an Us And Them original, ‘Do I Know You’, a sparse but elegant piece. Way outside of the remit of this blog, of course, but FdM’s releases are becoming so well-loved that anything they conjure up is worth investigating.

Finally, then, a three-tracker from Bronco Bullfrog, whose reason for existing seems to be to try and catch and bottle their impression of 60s pop-psych, which they do pretty well in their whimsical, slightly silly and off-kilter, manner, on the release’s lead song ‘Time Waits For Norman’, which, while it’s something of a 1066 And All That version of the later 60s sound, the bits that you think you remember, is a suitable amount of fun for sure.

Fruits de Mer Website

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Movements - Six Feet Under


Mugstar – Sun, Broken


Makes my job as an on-line reviewer so much easier when something drops into my inbox promoting a new release that’s actually a reissue of an album I know and love already, and this is one such instance since Sun. Broken I’ve owned on CD since the band kindly sent over a copy after my review of their Lime album three years ago, so although I never got around to posting a review of that one, I know the Important Records edition well. But it’s great to have a reason for mentioning it here, and that’s because there’s a 500-pressing vinyl LP version due from Cardinal Fuzz later this month (release date 24th March).

I mean, it’s a bloody corker of a space-rock record, totally intense, absolutely relentless, sounding fucking HUGE and living its life LARGE. The label seem properly chuffed to be giving it a vinyl release… and quite right too. So they’ve not just reissued it, but they’ve given it a packaging makeover with Sam Weihl’s new embossed design for its sleeve and what they describe as “stunning intergalactic black/white swirl” in its pressing.

Sun, Broken is all about power, epitomised by hard driving tracks with pounding drums, urgent keyboards and wailing technology, such as the opening ‘Technical Knowledge As A Weapon’ and the intensive and arresting ‘Labrador Hatchet’; it’s as though nothing is laid-down and committed unless it absolutely is going to plough through jacked-up to the max speakers as if it’s scientifically and chemically augmented to break the sound barrier itself, raging and racing, filling every crack and expanding, exploding, into every void: dominating your headspace and your environment. It’s that strong. Predominately instrumental, impenetrable chanting surfaces at moments, imploring us further onward. I look back at my review of Lime, and I was saying then that I “couldn’t enthuse enough” about that one… well, that’s Sun, Broken with knobs on, all turned up to screaming point, a record with everything a space-rocker might want and then some sonically challenging more.

Least we come away thinking its all heads down heaviness, Mugstar have more than just that modus operandi in their armoury. The 13.45 minute ‘Furklasunbo’ that sees out the album ranges across soundscapes, always moving onwards but having a robust and muscular subtleness to its opening movement – if that’s not a complete contradiction in terms – while always maintaining purpose, building up and working towards its interstellar travelogue despite its sprawling nature. It’s massive composition that sweeps and swirls in perfect symmetry. But then, it’s all totally stellar. Every space cadet should own a copy.

Cardinal Fuzz Website

Mugstar Website

Monday, 3 February 2014

Amae - Eridanus


Amae is the side-project of Chris Boat from Spiral, an outlet for his ambient spacerock musings and a thoughtfully appreciated change of pace, of texture and tone, for this blogger. Eridanus is a river in Greek mythology. Eridanus is the Po River, according to Roman word usage. Eridanus is a southern constellation. Eridanus is four tracks of quiet and meditative reflection. Eridanus is minimalist, but it is not minimal.

This is all.

Amae @ Bandcamp

Admiral Browning – Give No Quarter


Admiral Browning, who are based out of Middletown Maryland, have been around since way back in 2002, though they started playing live in 2005, and are comprised of Matt Legrow (Guitar), Tim Otis (Drums), and Ron McGinnis (Bass), playing a principally instrumental form of heavy progressive rock – they’ve also an enormous reservoir of patience, since I’d afraid to say this is another release I’ve had backlogged for commentary for quite some time: they first dropped me a note back in July of last year. But they’re currently having a sort of ‘second-wave’ push on this album, ‘Give No Quarter’, so I’m pleased to be able to contribute a review to that, even if I was remiss in not following it up much earlier. Sorry chaps!

What they’re playing on Give No Quarter is well described in the album’s title: relentless, grungy, taking no prisoners; robust and muscular poundings with titles such as ‘Theme For Evil’, ‘Traps’, and ‘Rogue Planet’ and in that respect there’s a particular modus operandi at work and once they’ve found it works they don’t start digging around in their toolkit for something different. I’m not complaining – it works in a heads down, no nonsense rock manner with each man having a mission to make noise and the three of them combining to play something pretty pulse-pounding, and if it’s pile-driving chops that you’re after they’re here in spades.

And then it twists out of itself and into ‘Las Aranas Lobo’, which though it again builds into a great mashed-up mesh of sounds, starts with a South American, or at least South of the border vibe from Legrow’s guitar playing that maintains through the track while McGinnis lets go on some free-ranging, wandering, expressive bass-lines and Otis keeps a firm hand on the track’s rhythms, so that it’s a piece where each musician expresses himself deftly while all three still collude in that building up of noise. A curio, a piece that’s about individuals even while being a nine-minute let-loose band extravaganza.

‘Rogue Planet’ is also something of a point of difference with the full-on salvos of much that comes before it, starting with some haunting and spacey sounds, the most spacerock influenced of anything here, before Otis starts calling the trio to order with some ever more pointed and studied drumming, though his band-mates continue with their increasingly expansive riffing so that again Admiral Browning are building upon each other to get to that crescendo point of noise, urged on by the drums and finally reaching a peak before the soundscape retreats into that from which it expanded and an album that delights in sonic assault confounds expectations and leaves in discordant oscillating quiet.

Not on the album, but one I liked from their Soundcloud…


Admiral Browning @ Soundcloud

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Vintage Cucumber – Tee Sessions EP (2013)


Johannes Schulz plays all instruments on this psychedelic / krautrock project and by the look of his Bandcamp page has been pretty prolific about it recently, but it’s his latest recordings, Tee Sessions, that he’s emailed me about. Now, as a committed non tea drinker, would these recordings be my, err, glass of coke, I wondered? (‘Not my cup of tea’, you see what I did there? No, you’re right, I’ll never make anything of myself in comedy).

Actually, I spent quite a pleasant half an hour on a Sunday afternoon listening to Johannes’s music, drawn in by the bright and engaging ‘Hagebutten Tee (Am laufenden Band​.​.​.​)’’, which Google Translate advises me as ‘Rosehip Tea (Churning)’, a bubbly six minute piece that sounds like Ozrics Tentacles taking time out and relaxing with a cuppa, though with some background vocals slipped into the mix. ‘Weißer Tee (Maakute a Shaakalaka​.​.​.​)’, which apparently is ‘White Tea’, is a different texture, quite dark and brooding while the thirteen minute ‘Green Tea’ (‘Grüner Tee (Laufen ohne Schnaufen​.​.​.​)’) has a squelchy keyboard arrangement that when it really gets started – and when I say ‘gets started’ I mean a back-beat kicks in but gently - it reminds me just a little of what Pete, Glenda and co of Sendelica are sometimes doing with their more ambient krautrock pieces.

‘Gelber Tee (Nachricht an mich​.​.​.​)’, otherwise ‘Yellow Tea (Message to me..)’, is a an abbreviated piece, less than a minute and a half in length, and as such as just something of Eno’s ‘Another Green World’ about it, lovely and understated, making you wish there were more of it but actually perfectly judge in content, so it absolutely works on that level. Finally, ‘Schwarzer Tee (Gans allein​.​.​.​)’, ‘Black Tea’, rounds this EP out with seventeen minutes of droning sounds and intoning vocals that feels oppressive and perhaps tells us that from the bright opener to the denser closing piece, there’s a journey laid out and undertaken. I liked these recordings and definitely would investigate further.

Vintage Cucumber @ Bandcamp