Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Mushroom Project


Layout 1

I’d reviewed this side-project album from members of the Magic Mushroom Band and Astralasia in a recent issue of Record Collector, and given that can be found on-line (here) then I’ll not double-dip it by reviewing it here as well – particularly as I’ve not been actively posting for a while and have a backlog of stuff that I want to mention – but I did meet up with MMB / Astralasia mainstays Swordfish and Wayne Twinning recently and took the opportunity to ask them about this record which they’d originally conceived as a potential work with former MMB members Garry and Kim.

Swordfish: It started two or three years ago; I did some little loops, Pete [Pracownik] did some rhythm guitars, and Wayne and I put some instrumental ideas together which we were going to throw at Gary and Kim because as an instrumental, Chris [Hillman, of Magick Eye Records] said “it’s not going to sound like the Magic Mushroom Band without having vocals, or a certain section of vocals.” If it was going to come from anyone it should come from me, and we hadn’t spoken in a long time so we sent Garry a message and got in touch, but he felt it all ended in 1995 and that was it as far as he was concerned. We thought about putting it out as the Magic Mushroom Banned but we thought that might be a bit contentious…

Wayne: Good taste prevailed!

Swordfish: And aside from the Mushroom Project, in terms of Astralasia, we’ve almost gone back to that, that basic form where you throw all these things in and hope something comes out of that, rather than here are the chords, this is the song, here’s the chorus, it goes like this… all play along. We’d lost all that jamming, just freaking-out and doing that kind of thing. This album, we wanted to address that and take it back, so even if Gary and Kim had been involved we would still have kept it like that, had more of a free-form element to it.

It’s more space-rock than you’ve been doing recently…

Swordfish: Oh yeah, it’s that grungy riff where you might say it’s got that Hawkwind-ness to it, because it has got that… those two chords… and that’s probably intentional, just to make it rock; we didn’t want to use the machines we’d been using in dance music, we went back to the old school to do it this way and it’s the same with the stuff we’ve done recently for Fruits De Mer. We’ve kind of done all that [dance] and there’s so many kids out there now doing that dance thing it’s like we don’t want to compete in that sort of thing anymore. We were doing it before any of them were there, and the fact that we can do that… but we can still do this and that and we can do this, and they can’t. They just do the same thing. We’ve been back to those trance gigs, back to those places… I mean, they’re good at what they do, but they don’t do anything else. Life and music is so much more exciting than that, isn’t it! So many colours to the palette and so many things you can do. I suppose that’s why we did the Mushroom Project, we thought lets grind a bit and do something a bit rocky. We sent a copy to some people in Italy, and they wanted it to sound like the old Mushroom Band, they wanted vocals and songs on it and said that “it sounds like the boring Ozric Tentacles.” Well, everyone said, “that’s not a bad thing, is it?” Well, no, not really!

You’ve got Simon House playing on it?

Swordfish: That’s just a bit that got left over [from other recordings]. We’ve been trying to get hold of him for ages.

This one is on Talking Elephant, and you did an early days bits and pieces release with them recently as well, Blues Spores

Swordfish: Blue Spores was leftover material, it was a way of getting stuff out because I’m a great believer in using the structure… having things come out properly. If we’re going to do things ourselves, unless we’re going to make a really big effort and do it like a proper package, and with this being old stuff and not a current thing that we’re working on, it seemed better to release it through someone like Talking Elephant. And [label owners] Malcolm and Barry are like a couple of old Hawkwind roadies…

Wayne: More like a couple of Fairport Convention roadies! They’re lovely.

Swordfish: They really are lovely and we’ve done a few things with them over the years. Pete’s done some artwork for them. It just seemed right to put these things out with them.

What can you say about the tracks on Mushroom Project?

Swordfish: The titles, there’s some references there. The first track, ‘Imperial Eye’… they all hark back to festival things, Imperial Eye Band were a festival band…

Wayne: A large reggae band from Slough!

Swordfish: I remembered them; then the second track is ‘Invisible Guitar’, after Rory Cargills’s Invisible Band. ‘Sunkissed’ refers to old members moving to Australia! ‘Clear Blue Sky’ the end track, is, I suppose, what I would have liked to have been the way the Mushroom Band would have gone… this won’t come over right, but I wanted us to become a Fleetwood Mac, not in terms of the music or the songs, but in terms of as a unit, as a band.

Wayne: Not the best example of a band, with the internal politics…

Swordfish: But getting over it and making something that was bigger than anything, because the music is bigger than all that. When you get on that stage, when you’re playing, that is what it’s all about, that moment and what you get back is worth everything, whether it’s fifty people or fifty thousand!

Mushroom Project on Talking Elephant

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Timepiece - Class M Planets

Class M Planets–Deerpath


Class M Planets is the project of Adam Goldman from Portland, OR (I’ll have to check with my friend Roger Neville-Neil if he’s aware of this musician) and while it’s clearly not space-rock – you guessed that from the cover image, right? – it’s going to interest blog readers who enjoy that sort of bucolic, pastoral, alt-folk psych singer-songwriter music that Cary Porter’s acrylic cover painting exactly suggests.

The accompanying press release for this LP, released in July 2014, invokes Syd Barrett and Marc Bolan, and a smattering of Leonard Cohen and I’d add that perhaps it just about swaps an orbit with Twink or much more particularly Ian A. Anderson but then again it’s quite charming enough to standalone. Regular readers of the blog will likely remember Adam for his split 7” single with Bevis Frond that I’d reviewed back in 2013, playing as thebrotheregg and releasing just as enchanting a record then.

Sixteen tracks, with Goldman working alongside different musicians on each, all reflect the vividness of that striking cover painting – again to quote the PR on this “the final product is a beautiful, 180 gram, vinyl album with full-colour gatefold and insert” – brief but gently crafted songs that have a contradiction to them simply because they are spaciously lo-fi but still lushly realised. A neat trick, I’d say.

So what these songs are, they’re wrapped up in an ethereal mysticism and still they’re about the here and now of real life. They’re elegant and approachable, heartfelt intimacies. As sparse as, say, a Pulco record, as neatly simple as a BMX Bandits song and as satisfyingly complex as you’d want.

Totally Punk Records

Lizards Exist



Lizards Exist note themselves to be a space/psychedelic rock band from Croatia with influences from the 60s/70s Kraut and British prog rock scene. “Using only 100% analog vintage equipment (pre 1976) we bring these vintage sounds in its original form to the listener.” A visit to their Facebook page tells us their line-up: Boris  - Drums Roko Margeta (aka Grimble Gromble) - Keyboards, Synths Siniša Mraović (aka Captain Binson) – Guitar, Tihomir Zdjelarević – Bass.

The eponymous album, four tracks, that is available on-line is their first, a meandering and loose instrumental collection leaning most heavily towards their Krautrock inspirations; recorded in March 2014. It’s intense and abstract, the musicians winding their way through the music in studious, serious, manner and in that respect it does have the early part of the 1970s clinging to it. Brozović is busy on the drum kit without being intrusive, working around it without having to hit everything Clem Burke-style but keeping the whole thing moving in the right direction and allowing his colleagues to deviate and explore.

The British influence comes through as stylistically Canterbury in their experimenting but there’s also a energetic groove happening throughout the recordings that means that while they sound almost chin-strokingly thoughtful about what they’re doing, there’s also some liveliness to their music and some judicious deconstructing into noise.

Lizards Exist – Bandcamp Page

Lizards Exist – Soundcloud

Lizards Exist – Facebook

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Krankschaft - Three



Krankschaft have slipped past me a little bit since I reviewed their excellent album The Flame Red Superstar a while back, where they were essentially Steve Pond and Dead Fred and had produced a record that was a loving re-examination of some of the lesser known writings of Bob Calvert, who they’d worked with on, and around the time of, Bob’s career-affirming show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, itself recorded for posterity and released back in the day.

Fred’s no longer involved with the band, as I understand it that’s because of his recently revived Hawkwind membership and its associated commitments, so Krankschaft are now Steve Pond with newer recruits Alex Tsentides (bass) and Kevin Walker (drums). And, not to overdo the use of the ‘H’ word, since even those bands that most proudly wear their Hawkwind influences on their sleeves like a badge of allegiance to a common cause, the opening track of their new LP launches itself with unashamed, unabashed, Hawkwind riffs, effects and lyrics that have an early ‘Wind vibe and an influence from multiple Hawk-numbers. Bloody great it is, too.

Though they never drift away from the central space rock theme, ’Dark Energy’, as the record’s starting point, is the most overtly in debt to Hawkwind and they stretch their space-faring legs more widely and very ably across the other seven tracks. The wistfully disappointed ‘Jetpack’ (‘When I was young they said you won’t grow old / I hate this future we’ve been sold’) chimes with all of us who grew up in the scientific optimism of the 60s and 70s, a twist on the old notion of the jetpacks we were promised that’s touching and affecting… and very perceptive. Whatever happened to the future? ‘Day of the Quake’ is a driving and muscular interpretation of a Calvert poem; that regular returning to Bob’s words a reminder, I’d think, of just how much working and associating with Bob in the latter part of his life still means to Steve Pond.

‘Come Fly With Us’ has a jagged and spiralling guitar intro that’s catchy and attention grabbing and leads into an appropriately uplifting, really rather poppy song, that will do extremely well played live with its soaring lead guitar punctuated by Brock-like riffs. None of that is intended as a pun, either! (From the credits, I’m not sure whose song this is, by the way).

I try to put my finger on the opening of ‘Silent Witness’. Not sure whether to think it has some early 80s, New Romantic, leanings; whether it owes something to John Foxx, and/or Ultravox, or to Visage perhaps, twisted into a heavier rock thing as with Depeche Mode. I don’t know… but it’s a strong piece, it feels like it has substance and heart and it’s a memorable blend of electronics and guitar that stands out and a bit to one side from the rest of the record, an alternative pathway Krankschaft could explore – not out of place by any means, but just different.

The science fiction theme of ‘Moon’, the call of something lost millennia before, waiting to be rediscovered and reclaimed is beautifully realised in a quite charming song that’s more about the singing than the music so that instead of the words and vocals being the icing on the cake of the soundtrack, on this one the music is there to help describe and underline the vocals, and if the lyrics are a bit hippie in their outset they reach a satisfying conclusion.

‘Sheep’ has the band sounding like an updated middle-era Inner City Unit in some ways; I didn’t care for what I heard as the clichéd and hectoring lyrics (Sorry Steve!) so likely in the future this one is my ‘skip’ track I’m afraid, but ‘Who What Why’ plays us out energetically… should be a set closer in a live show. So, one track that I didn’t much care for – seven that are properly terrific. I think that counts as a result.

Krankschaft Website

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Paul Roland–Professor Moriarty’s Jukebox


This could be just the start of an on-going series of unreleased recordings from the Gothic Godfather not just because it contains re-workings and recorded as radio sessions material from Paul Roland’s extensive songbook but because it comes at a time when the muse is strong with a copious amount of new albums and re-thought reissues having appeared in recent years, alongside Roland’s parallel creative pathway which has seen him releasing books on Marc Bolan, Steampunk, and, most recently, H P Lovecraft.

The first ten tracks were recorded in January 2013 with a full band line-up that had been assembled for a charity show in London that winter and which, when a mooted series of British gigs failed to materialise, came together to lay down some potential radio session tracks. Largely, the versions they cut are more muscular, rocking, interpretations: ‘Re-animator’ from the album of the same name, ‘Captain Nemo’ from its Nevermore successor. ‘The Puppet Master’ and ‘Cairo’ which hail from Burnt Orchids, much further back in Paul’s catalogue. There’s a sense with these re-visitations that he really had a ball in playing them again, with an upfront and vigorous vocal performance full of menace and attack. And, while this reviewer gives thanks to the terrific reissue programme that has brought much of Paul’s canon back into circulation, there’s songs such as ‘Aleistair Crowley’, from the still pending reissue Gargoyles that reaffirms the yearning for the remainder to make their way along the queue.

These ten songs are so strong in the craft that created them and the verve with which they are played, as well as the gothic / steampunk / occult themes that tie them together, that they would have made a satisfying and internally consistent album by themselves. Recorded back in 2007, the following track here, a rip-roaring cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘Meadows Of The Sea’ almost feels like it comes from the same session, even while being perhaps more aggressively delivered while a version of Joy Division’s ‘Day Of The Lords’, originally released on Shadowplay, a Joy Division tribute album, is a brooding, pent-up and coiled take on the original that brings something new – as a good cover should. A largely acoustic version of ‘Kali’ from the recent Bates Motel [where ‘Tortured By The Daughter Of Fu Manchu’, from the January 2013 sessions here also appeared] is a exotic delight among the remaining selections, while another acoustic cut, the Bates Motel title-track is full of foreshadowed doom.

So it’s two different albums really, a internally consistent set that makes up the first half of the record and a more scattergun assembly of the remainder that has a lot of great material but has the feel of being bonus tracks to the main event. As a whole, though, this would make an excellent entry point into Paul Roland’s music… if you’ve not heard his work previously this one is recommended from that point of view. If, like me, you’re a fan, this one is an essential part of a Roland collection.

Strange Boat Reviews

There are a few reviews starting to appear for the new edition of Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys (Gonzo Multimedia paperback / Lumoni Press E-book).

Goodreads Website has a terrific review from musician and author Stephen Palmer that’s associated with the original SAF edition but is a commentary on the new edition. “In summary: a particularly well assembled biography of a fascinating musician. No fan of Mike Scott or the Waterboys, of ‘eighties music, or of the many strands of Celtic music will want to miss this entertaining book. Definitely recommended.”

Strange Boat Goodreads Review Link

The Rocker website doesn’t much care for Mike Scott or his music I’m afraid, but still thinks that Strange Boat is “still a good read… it filled an otherwise dull Monday afternoon quite comfortably.” You’ll need to scroll down to their 16th October entries to read this review.

The Rocker Review Link

At Get Ready To Rock website Jason Ritchie thinks Strange Boat “a comprehensive overview” and notes that Mike Scott comes across “a thoroughly nice person,” which I’m not quite sure chimes totally with his single-minded nature myself, but does conclude that “interviews with the man himself would have really provided a deeper insight into the lyrics and ways of creating music.” Which, of course, I can’t disagree with.

Get Ready To Rock Review Link

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Children of Leir–New 7” Single Black Annis (News/PR)

Children of Leir releases a brand new  Double A-side single through Simulations.

‘Black Annis’ b/w ‘Children Of Leir’ will be released on October 27th on 7” vinyl only and is limited to 100 copies.

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

The single can be bought from the Children of Leir Bandcamp site.

The second Children of Leir album is due in 2015.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Strange Boat – New Edition

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Strangeboat by Ian   Abrahams


by Ian Abrahams

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

So this is as about as far removed from space-rock as you’ll find posted on this blog, but republished in an updated edition by Gonzo Multimedia (Print Edition) and Lumoni Press (which is me… eBook edition) is my 2007 book on Mike Scott & The Waterboys. There’s a Goodreads Giveaway that runs until 31st August 2014; entries from anywhere in the world are very welcome and I’ve 2 copies to giveaway in this competition.

Otherwise, the book is available here in its print edition from Gonzo’s website (though it’ll also be available from other on-line retailers… I see Barnes & Noble are listing it already for example) and either at Smashwords or Amazon sites if you want to download the eBook version.