Monday, 23 November 2015

Festivalized – Digital Publication Day!

festivaliZed (1)

Today is the digital publication day for Festivalized: Music, Politics, And Alternative Culture. The print edition will be available in the next few weeks. For the moment though you can get it for your e-reader via Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes and other retailers that are serviced via Smashwords. Some links here:

Amazon UK

Amazon US


If you are a reviewer / blogger who wants to cover his book we’d love to hear from you – drop me an email from my profile page and I’ll organise a download code or PDF for you.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Festivalized Extract – Aktivator ‘88


Here’s the first proper extract from the forthcoming Festivalized: Music, Politics, Alternative Culture. In this section we discuss the Aktivator ‘88 festival, which, while not strictly being a free festival, is very much of the free festival vive and ilk, and is notable in Hawkwind legend for being Richard Chadwick’s first gig with the band – probably in that summer’s ‘Hawkdog’ or ‘Agents of Chaos’ by-line.

Pe-orders for the print edition are now live on Gonzo Multimedia website and can be placed here. For the eBook edition, see the Amazon link at the end of this extract.

Aktivator – 1988

“The doctor’s wife went around and told all the old people to get their relatives to come and stay with them and lock up their garden sheds.”

Aktivator ’88, named after a Steve Hillage track, took place over the weekend of 12th – 14th August, 1988 and featured a collection of West Country bands, many hailing from the Bath scene. Nik Turner’s All-Stars, Rhythmites, Jonah and the Wail, Ozric Tentacles, Childe Roland, and the Hippy Slags were all listed on the flyers for this festival, whilst it also passed into Hawkwind folklore as the first appearance with the band of drummer Richard Chadwick, who would go on to become their second-longest serving member.

Not a free festival per se, it had a gate charge of £5 to raise funds for the travellers’ ‘Skool Bus’, a mobile educational establishment intended to follow the travelling community across the country, the registered keeper of which was Richie Cotterill. “Conflicts are arising amongst the travellers over where the Skool Bus should be,” noted its newsletter the following year. “The Skool Bus is a large, symbolic accumulation of the energy which has been put into this project but is only the beginning of this manifestation. It may not be long before the poisoned attitudes of our critics will destroy what little faith the travellers had in the whole project and after that, nothing will work.”

slags at acktivator

Hippy Slags at Aktivator ‘88 (Bridget Wishart Collection)

Sheila Wynter (Landowner): The farm was about ninety-eight acres, and then we bought another twenty, so it was quite a small farm. We had four fields down by the Severn and when it flooded, which it did every year between November and February, most of it went underwater, which was most inconvenient! We had a Rainbow Camp just before Aktivator started. They’d get in touch with a farm and say, ‘Can we do it?’ and they wouldn’t tell people where it was until the last minute. They’d get people signed up and then they’d say, ‘You go to this place on the OS map.’ They came with beautiful tents and organised a lot of talking and practical workshops. They knew me from the Farmers’ Third World Network. It was well organised, people came with tepees; they put up a wonderful shower that had a big boiler and they lit a fire and people would run out of their tents, all completely naked. There was a stuffy old Colonel who lived near the bottom of our garden and he was out with his binoculars every morning… someone caught him doing that! I sat in on some of their workshops and they’d have a talking stick which was passed around, and if you had something to say you’d say it while you held the stick, and if you didn’t you just passed it on. They talked about all sorts of topics, philosophy and religion; they had speakers and wonderful food in their kitchens and it was lovely.

“The Rainbow Circle is primarily dedicated to planetary healing, personal awareness and inner growth. Our aim is to provide a beautiful and protected village atmosphere for people who seek genuine human communication. The camp provides a focused space for experimental learning, knowledge sharing and ceremony.”

Quote from Rainbow Camp information flyer

Nigel Mazlyn Jones: At the last Stonehenge I remember a meeting of the people that had ‘organised’ it saying that its mayhem gave the authorities the excuse to dump on it big time. That ‘spiritually’ it was indicating these events had become too huge. That was the core issue. It was suffocating the beauty, the mystique and the atmosphere that Stonehenge could give to a smaller gathering. It had become out of hand, thus creating the reaction it got from the establishment. What came out of the meeting was that those who cared about having a gathering that was sacred and mystical should go and celebrate the other sacred sites in Britain in small gatherings. I was astonished that it worked, because out of it came the Rainbow Circle camps which were always paid for by a hat gathering and deliberately not advertised and avoided getting the druggies from London coming to deal and people abusing it. It very much spawned lots of little festivals that took on various cloaks of what they were trying to achieve. So whilst it appeared to all blow up, it actually created a whole other thing. Rainbow Camps were acoustically based and there were no generators allowed, no electric music, no star names, and no huge expenditure. No massive drug use – some of them were very specific: no drug use at all. I know lots of people who helped run these things and had children, and I’ve seen them grow up and become fine people, education professionals out there in the world doing all sorts of things. Children of those, if you like, wandering, searching adults.

Sheila Wynter: My husband was an alcoholic and had got himself into a really bad state and had taken himself off to a treatment centre, where he was for a very long time. [My son] Adrian talked about hosting a little music festival; I suppose I said ‘Okay,’ but I didn’t think much about it. Adrian had been saying, ‘We’re doing this for the Skool Bus’ and he kept talking about this young couple who were organising this collection to keep it running. Aktivator took over nearly the whole farm, we estimated about seven thousand attendees. We heard there were great queues of travellers coming down from Wales, which is when the police got interested – they were very worried. As the travellers came into the village, we got them in at a gate before the farm and we’d put a fence so that we could get lots of vehicles in all the way down. Then we got the caravans with horses into the paddock at the end. They were lovely because they brought with them their chickens and goats, and all their horses were having foals.

Bridget Wishart: [On travelling with horses]. You were, at that point, still able to do it. You needed the support of the people around you but you could just take to the road. Because of the animals’ needs they tended to park in one place, they weren’t part of the Brew Crew types because they had responsibilities to their animals. Yet they partied like other people but they had responsibilities that other people didn’t have. Some [normal travellers] would steal a vehicle to get to festivals and then abandon them and move on.


Dancers. Sheila Wynter.

Sheila Wynter: The travellers didn’t pay on the way in, but they paid on the way out because they’d had such a good time. The weather was good, there were no accidents - but there was one case of sheep-worrying and the villagers were terrified. The village didn’t really like us anyway and they were furious. They’d had the Rainbow Camp, which didn’t do any harm at all, but then all this lot came and the doctor’s wife went around and told all the old people to get their relatives to come and stay with them and lock up their garden sheds. All sorts of things, winding them up and saying it was dangerous – these people with earrings and coloured hair! They didn’t phone up or come around much, but there were a few threats.

Bridget Wishart: There was that whole thing… it would be portrayed on the news as ‘travellers are coming to your area’ and they’d have kind of, ‘Farmers, lock up your daughters and protect your land.’ Farmers and other landowners were blocking access to their land with huge stones so that travellers couldn’t pull onto it.


Stage at Aktivator. Sheila Wynter

Keith Bailey: At Megan’s Fayre, up in the mountains of Wales, a small festival with maybe five or ten thousand people, the local farmers got together and drove around spraying everybody with pig shit, which got rid of us for sure and we ended up on some barren hillside with no water or anything. The people who’d put it together had spent weeks and weeks on the site putting up these amazing facilities. Everything was made from wood and the people who set it up were just such nice people and the whole vibe was excellent. And that got turned over by the local authorities because the farmers around it hated us doing it. You’d get the progressive thinking people in any area who’d welcome it with open arms and say ‘look, it’s good for local businesses,’ because the shops would sell out of everything nearly overnight, but then you’d get the Colonel Blimps who were dyed-in-the-wool nimbies.

Sheila Wynter: There was a strong police presence; they took over a barn just up the hill, and there were helicopters as well. It was really feared that ‘things’ were going to happen. We sat around the kitchen table and a lot of the police chiefs came and Adrian explained what we’d done, and what we were doing. They said that they were going to keep an eye on it and it all seemed very solemn but there wasn’t any trouble, apart from the one sheep-worrying incident. The dogs were the worst thing, a lot of the travellers had dogs and they fought a bit and then they’d run off and there was one sheep killed, which was a bad thing and caused terrible anger. But nobody was defecating on the village green, which was what the villagers had all been warned they were going to do!


Bender being established, Sheila Wynter

Sheila Wynter: We thought that if we fed and watered and rested the people who were in charge of those coming in, and made sure they all had wood for their fires and the loos worked and laid on water… if we serviced them really well, the thing was much more likely to work. Adrian hired a digger and made two really big pits and had eighteen-hole loos. And he’d managed to find a timber yard that was selling up and said ‘I’ll buy all the wood’ and found some lorries to bring it all up to the farm, because otherwise they’d have taken down all our precious trees to make fires to cook with. So this wood was brought in, and Adrian arranged to have skips brought in each day to take all the rubbish away. He was only twenty at the time, but he was a brilliant organiser. There was a chap that did a morning and an afternoon newsletter letting people know what was happening. We had the Aga and we made bread constantly, and as soon as it was made we cut it into vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and took them up to the people who were dealing with things and taking the money. And we took all the money and put the cash in margarine containers in the fridge and then someone else took the cartons up to Tewkesbury and hid them under a bed! So when Adrian needed to pay the bands, someone else went and got the cash – and in the end there was about three thousand pounds left over for the Skool Bus. At the end he went up to the barn and said to the police, ‘Well, you’ve had a great time while we’ve had the festival. You’ve sat here the whole time playing cards, you haven’t had to do anything. Could you give us a donation for the Travellers’ Skool Bus?’ I don’t know whether they did, but they were fine and were really surprised. I liked the travellers and met a lot of them; there were bad ones of course and a lot of druggies. But you know, when people were really down and out and they got below the social services [radar] and they didn’t have an address, they were advised to go to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army couldn’t really help them, because it had rules, quite reasonable rules but some of them couldn’t take that either, so the Salvation Army suggested they join the travellers. There was one woman who had a London bus with forests painted all over it and she had her own children but she’d also taken in some very sad cases and helped them. I thought she was a wonderful person. Some of the kids she’d taken in were from middle-class families, who’d got chucked out because of their behaviour. The travellers had their own First Aid unit, who were a lovely lot because you couldn’t get the Red Cross or St. Johns to come in. I had some old sheets and they wanted those to make bandages and stuff, not that there was much trouble… and there wasn’t too much trouble with drugs though we did have one chap who came into the farmhouse and said he’d been spiked and was very ill. He was all right, he got through, but that was a bit frightening.

Bridget Wishart: Jock, who was a healer and a homeopath, he and his wife Sally used to help people out; there were people who you knew, like you could say ‘Go and see her on the red bus, she’s got some herbal teas.’ But there were a slow but steady stream of people who would go and visit Sally and Jock to have various injuries and traumas tended. Sally always had her homeopathies with her. And she cooked the most amazing pea fritters!

Steve Bemand: Many times people off their heads or drunk would cause a rumpus of one kind or other. But it usually got chilled by people around them before a mass brawl could erupt, and the trouble-makers were always in the minority.

Jerry Richards: People would look out for one another. Someone came to our tent at one festival and said, ‘I’ve got this Timothy Leary acid here,’ and we said, ‘Yeah, sure, sure you have mate.’ But he said ‘No, seriously, I’m a chemist and I’ve got the formula together and made this stuff up.’ He got this blotter out that looked really professional, some sort of holographic paper and Steve Mills, the Tubilah Dog singer, and I, said we’d have some to try and it was really powerful stuff. Anyway, this guy at the same festival had tried it and was really off his head and going around hitting children because he was so far gone he said that they were ‘like demons, small demons.’ Of course, people spotted what was going on and grabbed hold of him, sat him down and tried to calm him, gave him a pipe and something to drink. But he was raving, and so someone put him on a flatbed truck and took him out of the festival site and into the nearest town and dropped him off. He wasn’t abandoned, because he was somewhere he could get some help. He was just beyond our help.

tractorlads watch the slags

Tractor lads watching the Hippy Slags. Sheila Wynter

Sheila Wynter: Afterwards we got some of the travellers and went up to the top fields and we had about twenty people in a line and we went over the whole lot in case there were any needles. I don’t think we found anything. We had a few travellers who didn’t leave at the end and that caused a lot of trouble. I think it was difficult for some of them to move on for one reason or another, they should have done but didn’t. They all did go away eventually. One sinister lot had a big black hearse, there were about six of them and they weren’t very popular. But it was a very difficult time for me; the farmer who’d lost a sheep came over and there was a terrible row in the kitchen. I had neighbours coming down and shouting at me, and that was very unpleasant. The village never forgave me, but then quite soon afterwards I had to sell the farm anyway – and they were very glad to get rid of me. I was one of the oldest inhabitants of the village by the time I left, but I’d say hello and people who I’d known for years, I was there for thirty-odd years, would just turn away from me in the street or shout at me. At one time I had a letter from Malvern Hills District Council saying that they were prosecuting me for making a noise after midnight for four nights running and they were charging me something like seven thousand pounds. Someone said to me ‘What about this letter, this prosecution? What are you going to do about it?’ Well, I didn’t know what I was going to do about it because I didn’t have seven thousand pounds so I said, ‘Well, I suppose I’ll have to go to prison.’ I didn’t realise it, but someone from the press was listening to this and they put it on Radio Gloucester, and Malvern Hills Council had farmers’ wives from all over the place phoning up saying, ‘What are you doing? You’re going to put a farmer’s wife in prison just because the children have been having a music festival!’ They couldn’t prosecute me because I didn’t own the land, my husband did. I did take exception to [being prosecuted] though because we were [in those days] having planes coming zooming over the farm making a noise, but this was music… and noise and making music are very different things. It took about ten days to get everyone off the farm, and then we had to dispose of the abandoned cars. There was a scam with the AA, because they did a deal that guaranteed to get you from A to B if you broke down, no matter what condition your car was in. So a whole lot of cars arrived that were total wrecks – some were towed in because they didn’t have any engines at all. The AA came in and took some of them to the next festival but others were just abandoned. Of course, the AA put that loophole right very quickly but the travellers caught this thing where they paid up at the beginning of the year and the AA towed them from festival to festival!

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Stuff Happening!



A few things going on at the moment to let you know about!

Firstly, the new edition of Record Collector has a feature from me on Flicknife Records, including an interview that I did with Frenchy Gloder a couple of years back where we talk, of course, about his Hawkwind releases, but also associated releases (Frenchy has a great story to tell about recording striking miners for Bob Calvert’s Freq mini-LP), and some of the other great musicians who recorded for Flicknife, such as Nikki Sudden, whose Bible Belt LP alone would have made Flicknife an important 80s label if they hadn’t released anything else. And paired with that feature I’m chatting to Dave Brock and reflecting on 30 years of The Chronicle of the Black Sword as well as hearing from sleeve artist John Coulthart on the associated ‘Chronicle of the Cursed Sleeve’!

I’m also chatting with Dave Brock on the Louder Than War website, hearing about his Top 10 Favourite (ish) albums – and those he enjoys today. Pop along and have a read:

Finally, and I’ll talk more about this during the week, with an extract planned for sometime in the next few days, Gonzo Multimedia now have the (I hope) long awaited ‘Festivalized’ for pre-order in its print edition (the eBook is also available to pre-order via Amazon, Smashwords etc.):


Hawklords – R:Evolution


A new Hawklords album seems now to be a regular fixture on the calendar, coming along like clockwork and each time building a bit more on what Jerry Richards, Ron Tree, Harvey Bainbridge and collaborators have done before. In that sense, you know it’s going to be an annual treat and R:Evolution is no exception to this rule, a really strong collection of new material that has echoes of its mothership source but continues to push away from being a straight Hawkwind spin-off band – though that influence still permeates through the music – and refines the band’s own distinct identity.

There’s been a few changes along the way, with Steve Swindells standing down early in their story (I have to say, I really miss his contributions, particularly his Farfisa which was a highlight of We Are One when they started off back in 2012) and now the great Adrian Shaw having left them. (I’ll come on to Adrian’s marvellous new solo album later this week if all goes well). They’ve still got Bevis Frond drummer Dave Pearce propelling them at the back though, while the new recruit is Tom Ashurst on bass.

It’s a lovely, fluid, record that they’ve released here; lots of variety and plenty of ideas, some of which still keeps them focused on redeveloping the original Hawklords concept for the 21st Century, some of which tantalises what might have been if the Distant Horizons Hawkwind had more time to develop what Jerry describes as their ‘screaming psychedelia’, and some of which stretches their boundaries further, a flow from psych-punk through bucolic, pastoral sounds and on to evocative spacescapes.

To pick out some highlights – and really there isn’t anything that disappoints on this album – let’s go right to the end of the record first, because when we think of this Hawklords being a recreating and revitalising of the original Hawklords concept, which it was at the outset, then we’d think particularly of Bob Calvert’s vision being borrowed, played with, expanded and updated. In ‘Shadow of the Machines’ though I think what we hear is a very Dave Brock sort of track, maybe circa Church of Hawkwind or perhaps from one of his solo albums, a playing with shifting sounds and words, so a track that displays a distinctly Brockian influence shall we say! And I liked to hear this… it’s easy to think of Hawklords as being a Calvert-driven thing back in the 70s, something more high-art than the regular Hawkwind work, and I just feel that hearing something by this band that demonstrates the legacy of Dave Brock specifically is a really good thing. That’s now I hear that one, anyway!


Photo Credit: Oz Hardwick

But again, the thing I take from R:Evolution is its sense of variation, even though everything meshes together so well. I don’t think I’ve heard Jerry playing better than he delivers here, a real mix of rock guitar and more delicate and intricate work. ‘The Dreaming’, a beautiful work with some lovely guitar and very nice synth work is aptly described by the track’s title. ‘And every body catching the vibe’ says the lyric, ‘And all ah we say: Yo! Ho-Ho!’ What a fantastic vibe this largely instrumental piece, with those end coda words, has.

On the other end of the sonic scale, the bright and sparkly ‘Re-Animator’, bursting with bristling and robust chops but still sprightly with its keyboards and FXs over the top, and ‘Blink of an Eye’, the opening pairing, are proper powerful space-rock with Ron Tree moving between Calvert, PIL rather than Sex Pistols John Lydon, and his own charismatic vocal presence. ‘The Last Change’ is Harvey Bainbridge’s composing credit this time around, a very Bainbridge dexterous mood piece that neatly shifts the record away from the opening powerhouses and onto ‘The Dreaming’ and the charming, folky, warm, hopeful and feel good, Hurry on Sundown, of ‘One Day’ – via one more typically Ron Tree wordage in ‘Space Monkey’.

‘A commentary on existence,’ says Jerry Richards. ‘Loads of old school retro, bound together with a nice take on the modern space-rock/prog format.’ He should know, of course, but that seems an excellent summing up of this one to me. OK, I’ve just marked-off October 2016 in my diary… no pressure for the next one, chaps.

Hawklords Etsy Shop

Hawklords Facebook Page

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Dave Brock Announces New Solo Album: Brockworld

Dave Brock Announces New Solo Album



Deep in the Devon countryside, from within what appears from the outside to be an old milking shed but which on the inside – part TARDIS, part Aladdin’s Cave – is revealed to be a recording studio, something stirs. Drums are pounding, the bass is rumbling. Guitars are insistently strumming, synthesisers are powering up into sci-fi soundscapes. Welcome to Brockworld.

Following on from his critically acclaimed Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams [‘Haunting and beautiful’, 4 Stars, Record Collector], Hawkwind mainstay Dave Brock releases his latest solo LP, an eclectic compendium of psychedelic rock songs interspersed with evocative instrumentals and experimental tunes that once again confirms his place as our foremost spacerock visionary.

Brockworld is bursting with vivid ideas, a dynamic outpouring from a musician always seeking new sounds and different techniques. From the moment this album bursts out into ‘Life Without Passion’, through the heavy space drone of ‘Horizon’, to the wryly engaging ‘Falling out of Love’ and the kaleidoscopic twists and turns of ‘Age of Psychedelia’, this album aptly captures Dave Brock’s roving creativity.

“Sometimes it’s that industrial space freighter chugging down the space-ways, sometimes a nimble solar sailing ship drifting from star to star, his deft hand on the tiller… that’s Dave Brock’s special vision.” Interstellar Overdrive - The Shindig! Guide To Spacerock discusses Dave Brock’s spacerock legacy.

Pre-Order Link: Here

Dave Brock: Brockworld is officially released on 16th November 2015

flier front uncropped

flier back

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Press Release: Festivalized: Music, Politics, Alternative Culture


Festivalized: Music, Politics and the Alternative Culture

By Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart

Gonzo Multimedia (Paperback) / Lumoni Press (Digital)

Publication Date: 23rd November 2015

Singer/Songwriter/Performance Artist Bridget Wishart (Hawkwind, Hippy Slags, Demented Stoats, Spirits Burning) and Music Journalist Ian Abrahams (Hawkwind – Sonic Assassins, Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys, Record Collector, R2, Vive Le Rock) announce the publication of their ‘talking heads’ book on the British free festival scene of the 70s, 80s and early 90s, Festivalized.

Published in paperback by Gonzo Multimedia and through digital/eBook formats by Lumoni Press, Festivalized surveys the history of the free festivals through the stories and viewpoints of those who were there. Musicians, Stage Organisers, Writers, Band Managers, Attendees, Travellers, and Landowners all bring their eye-witness accounts and first-hand experiences to this vivid document of the alternative culture at play.

Researched through over 50 interviews, including members of notable festival bands such as Hawkwind, Magic Mushroom Band, Ozric Tentacles, The Levellers, Here & Now, Magic Muscle, Mandragora, Zounds, Smartpils, Culture Shock, and 2000DS, and respected counterculture commentators such as Mick Farren and Penny Rimbaud, Festivalized relates the highs and lows, the conflicts and the achievements of the festival scene. From the festivals at Glastonbury, Windsor Great Park and Stonehenge to the travelling Convoy park-ups and the myriad 80s gatherings and on to the last great free festival at Castlemorton in 1992, here is an extensive recounting of the festivals and the characters that inhabited them.

Covering the musical, social and political aspects of the free festivals, Festivalized is an even-handed and comprehensive account of their development out of the 60s counterculture, their peak at Stonehenge in 1984 when a reputed 80,000 revellers gathered on Salisbury Plain, and their decline into hard drugs that saw bands attacked on stage, violent confrontations with the Thatcher government, and alleged infiltration by the security services. Never sentimental, always objective, Festivalized is a valuable and engaging oral history of a scene now vanished, some would argue expelled, from the British countryside.

For further details, review copies, cover images, or to arrange interviews with Bridget Wishart or Ian Abrahams, please email ianabrahams1 [at]

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Pre-Order the eBook edition with Amazon:

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Battle Elk–Songs For Heroes EP



I had the press and links for the first recordings from this Norwegian duo land in my inbox this morning and though it did some of the things I really wish bands pitching their music for review wouldn’t do – forgetting that the recipients should be bcc’d and not visible to all, putting sizeable attachments instead of web-friendly images and the like – it had such enthusiasm to it that I had to click through and give it a listen and thought it very listenable indeed.

Battle Elk is a progressive space/stoner duo from rural Magnor, Norway,” they explain. “Our songs all take place in a fictional world where warriors are mounted on elks and dragons terrorize the skies. We're inspired by old sci-fi and fantasy novels, adventure game soundtracks, loud guitars and Belgian beer. Battle Elk is Bjørn Marius Kristiansen and Espen Gunstensen.” They go to declaim their favourite Belgian beer as being Kriek Lambic, a Cherry-flavoured beer. Sounds delicious to me!

They’ve got a bit of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, if BRMC’s vocalist was Hawkwind-era Lemmy, a moody, heavy drawl that lingers across the four tracks of their debut EP, available from 25th September though they’re promoting an available from today single, ‘Charango Moon’ drawn from it as well. When they say they’ve compiled all their influences into it, it does indeed have that sense of a first effort, wanting to throw everything at it as though it’ll be the only chance they have, whereas from what they’re releasing it’s clear that it’s a project that they should keep progressing with.

But then, that approach does give the EP a varied texture, ‘Shield Wall’ being a heavy stoner salvo of an opening track that lyrically sets up their concept’s narrative, ‘Black Sector Highway’ shifting between robust vocals and strident minimalist playing and a more melodic, progressive folk, almost Americana, tune that feels as though its been recorded out in the wilderness with the wind howling around it.

‘Charango Moon’ is a proper single with a bit of pop sense, a bit of 60s psychedelia, and though it feels a bit underdone, the limitations of starting out and recording, as they say they did, in Bjørn’s “mouldy basements over the course of two intense weekends”, and though it wanders a bit, its certainly listen-again stuff. And ‘Mount The Elk’ has that BRMC thing going on that I really liked. I think these guys have had a great time putting this set together – more power to them – and there’s every chance that they’ll get better as they gain experience.

battle elk press05


Battle Elk Bandcamp

Battle Elk Website

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 – Live At SpaceFest!

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 artwork

I’ll tell you the moment that I really get into, really start to ‘get’ this record. It’s on track 3, ‘Notaki’. Spacerockers, it’s ‘Dream Of Isis’. I mean, it’s not actually ‘Dream Of Isis’, a Hawkwind song so obscure that even the Hawks themselves haven’t dug it out, dusted it off, and reintroduced it to the set. (For those who can’t bring this one to mind, it’s the B-side to ‘Back On The Streets’, their standalone 7” recorded circa Astounding Sounds… that slightly jazzy, partly funky, partly experimental and touching on oriental with indecipherable chanting, oddity). It’s not clockwork and regimented, or minimalist but energetic, like ‘Dream Of Isis’, instead its organic and spacey, but there’s an echo of it in its bass-lines and its plaintive background chanting and the frenetically busy feel of the whole thing. Coincidence… or an influence? I don’t know! It’s bloody great and I’d love to think that within this new space rock there’s a nod or glance back at something also great, but now overlooked, which ‘Dream Of Isis’ is. I might just be way off though… or properly way out, man, like the thoroughly exciting and engaging ‘Notaki’ is.

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 include Ride’s Mark Gardener and Ray Dickaty, once of Spiritualized and from that, and the musing above, you can tell that this comes from that crossroads out in the ether where shoegaze and spacerock somehow meet and condense the 70s and the 90s into one soundscape that owes progressive and indie and twists it into something contemporary. The band was put together specifically for the annual Gdansk SpaceFest event – I’ll quote here from the PR for this release: “The city of Gdansk plays host to this blossoming music festival each year in the first week of December, at which time numerous select musicians from Poland and abroad gather to take part in a special workshop series. They collectively compose a concert's worth of music, which they then present live to the festival-goers. Each year, this unique performance is recorded live and subsequently released as an LP.” The idea is that each festival is co-curated alongside Dickaty and Nasiono Records’ Karol Schwarz, and this one fell to Gardener.

"For me, this is interesting - it's perfect because it reminds me in some ways of how some of the early Ride songs came together... I didn't come in with a script, nor does Ray. There is no pre-work on this. It was just completely spontaneous," explains Mark Gardener. "Sometimes music like that is good before things get thought about too much and worked on too much. That can kill the energy sometimes. Of course some things have got to be worked and developed, but in this scenario, with such little time and to get an interesting set together, I think it's been good to keep it fresh and not over-worked."

It’s a hugely atmospheric set infused with melodic playing and, at points, some perfectly crystalline vocals, setting itself out into the vastness of space and drifting off in an interstellar, kaleidoscopic daydream haze. Bright colours, bright lights but still ethereal, intangible. It travels as though everything is about the journey, dancing out across stars and rejoicing in the way it effortlessly disperses out into multiple pathways.

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 - Mark closeup [Photo Pawel Jozwiak]

Photo © Pawel Jozwiak

What Gardener and collaborators have created, what they’ve composed and sent forth, is music with heart. It envelops its listeners, pulls them into that journey, and floats out, all kindred spirits together in our collective mind’s eye. A mind journey. ‘It’s not over/until it’s over’ sings Gardener on ‘Morning Rise’, a warming and comforting mesh of sounds with an uplifting, life-affirming lilt. You can hear it, let it fill your headphones or your headspace, and want it never to be over. 

Pure Phase Ensemble 4 Purchase Link

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Cary Grace –Tygerland



Drifting across boundaries, geographic, musical, comes Cary Grace, Somerset-based American, who I see getting a lot of review attention in my regular newsfeeds for psych sounds, and with justice because while the first 30 seconds of the opening title track had me wondering what was coming next – a discordant noisefest experiment – what does come next is an eclectic mix of psychedelic, progressive, jazz-fusion which moves from rich and rounded to minimalistic and bare by turn. I love it.

There’s a Pink Floyd aura to some of its early statements, part of a session from August 2014 recorded with Here & Now and Sentient’s Steffe Sharpstrings, and former Scissor Sisters keyboardist John Garden which is scattered through this record. It’s the laconic drawl of the intro to ‘Cyanide’, the second track on the album, and taken from that August work, that bursts into perfect melodic rock with Cary’s purposeful but not overpowering vocals which starts to say what a delight this one is going to be. It’s slick but edgy, rippled with sentiments of bitter frustration and building into a powerfully reflective moment. And then it twists away into ‘Orange Sky’, a much more sparse affair… I was listening to OMD’s Architecture & Morality for the first time in many years very recently; ‘Orange Sky’ has something of the hauntingly understated tones that something like ‘Sealand’ has, a feeling that even while it wraps into itself, it’s still describing a vista that is wide and open, desolate and strikingly beautiful. Its moods, Cary’s Minimoog generated,  are introverted, but the space that it visualises is vast.

‘War Child’ shifts into blues rock, studied, sleazy and alive. Here, if this were a Waterboys song, I could hear Mike Scott and his drawling diction, pulling shapes with the words, expanding and stretching them, and Cary does a similar thing, getting every word loaded with meaning and articulated with purpose. But then, it’s not about it being a record that’s like this, or like that… it’s one of the most singular, distinctive albums that I’ve been sent in quite a while, and any comparison is just to say that it has qualities that stand it along side musicians and records that have meant things across the years, it has that sort of lasting quality to it.

That hard-bitten blues gives away to light and air, ‘Limelight’, where Cary stretches out into a summertime evening warmth that’s jazzy and pop, lazily feeling good and drifting with the flow, another one taken from last August’s session I believe, and if so then built on Steffi’s expressive guitar work, and certainly also predicated on Cary’s voice leaving that blues sound behind and finding lilt and breeze. Easy going, easy listening, easy to become immersed in and float away with.

From there, the strumming and gentle bass and drums rhythms that opens ‘Razorwire’ keeps the record bathed in that sense of brightness and enveloping warmth… you could give yourself to the song and never want to come back. ‘Into The Indigo’ echoes back to earlier work, noted as recorded during sessions for Cary’s ‘Perpetual Motion’ album which some lovely winding, roving, violin from sometime Gong musician Graham Clark that gives its new home an additional texture. And then its into a 20 minute experimental, improvised, artistic, poetic, and  oft reflective piece of sound and word, ‘Windsong’ that takes this exceptional record to its conclusions.

Cary Grace Official Website

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Strange Boat Price Drop!

Looking forward to The Waterboys at Glastonbury? Price drop on the Amazon Kindle edition of 'Strange Boat - Mike Scott & The Waterboys' for the rest of June. Read it at Glasters - or anywhere else for that matter - for 1.99! Then I'll afford a hair cut!